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Hitching a Ride Through the Lagoon

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-01-02 15:59

I have been living aboard this buoyant piece of formed aluminum for more than three years now, and I don’t mind admitting that I am still figuring this whole sailing game out.  Once upon a time, friends tried to lure us back home with the carrot that the beautiful lots down the street from their house were for sale.  We joked that we would just dig a big hole, put Papillon in it and watch everyone’s property value plummet.  But now, while we wait for the endless Christmas holidays to be over and for our thrust bearing assembly doodads to arrive, I kind of feel like Papillon is sitting in that hole.  As December wore on, our neighbours sailed out, one by one, for holiday adventures on the lagoon.  And we sat.  We stayed.  We sighed.

But last week, some new friends invited us out on their boat for the afternoon.  And it was a revelation to your correspondent.  This opened a whole new world to me: the world of Mooching a Ride On Someone Else’s Boat.

Erik took the tiller at the earliest opportunity.

Why did no one tell me about this before?  It’s perfect!  Advantages: You get to go sailing.  Broken boat parts are Someone Else’s Problem.  You can test-drive another boat.  You have built-in company for an afternoon.  Did I mentioned you get to go sailing?  It had been so long, I would have taken a raft and a bed sheet tied to an old oar through the lagoon if someone had made a half-hearted effort to convince me it was seaworthy.

After years of using the wheel, it was fun to try a tiller.  As I never learned how to sail “properly” on a dinghy (Erik still schemes to enroll me in a children’s sailing class), I still find I am not intuitive with the backwards steering.  (My dear husband points out that it is just the same as using the outboard motor.  This is marriage, kids.)  But I kept us on course, and we didn’t get in irons, so let’s call it a win.

We ate, we swam, we ate some more, then we hauled up the spinnaker and headed for home.

So I am going to keep my ears open from now on in case our neighbours need an extra hand on a Sunday afternoon.  Pot washer, babysitter, main sheet adjuster or extra pair of eyes on the reef – the Papillon crew will be there to help.  And when Papillon is back in action, we’ll be on the lookout for other hopeful sailors walking the docks and sighing.  Everyone needs to mooch a ride, sometimes.

Grand plans for the Indian Ocean

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-01-02 11:08

We look ahead at 2014 with great anticipation: Now that the Pacific Ocean, South China Sea, and Straits of Malacca are behind us, it’s inevitable that the eyes wander west towards the Indian Ocean. Even contemplating the next leap makes me a little giddy. Deceptively open on the map, there are myriad small corners to learn about, dots on the map that the line of our route may wind through and around. Like the South Pacific, many have names that feel entirely foreign, and it’s hard to imagine now how they will someday feel as familiar to me as those Pacific names like Vava’u, Raiatea, Suwarrow, Efate and others rang strangely before our crossing in 2010. Languages to hear, cultures to experience, friends to meet.

There’s a lot of homework as we proceed towards this next big step. To dive into preparations, last year I took on management of a loosely organized group of boats planning 2014 Indian Ocean crossings, sharing information to aid in our plans for the passages between Southeast Asia and South Africa. It’s been the perfect way to fast forward learning, and connect with other boats on a similar path. Along with the daydreams of far off places, I’ve had my head stuck in the more practical side of pilot charts and route planning. There are just a few things we have to do first. See, there’s this problem with our radar. We’d really like to have a functional radar, which means- well, a new radar. Later diagnosis: dead radar. Still sold new at retail, but Raymarine won’t support it. Gah. And then there’s our battery bank, which is on it’s last legs. We need to repair the headsail, the forwardmost hatch, the dodger, and certify the lift raft. Safety essentials that we won’t leave without addressing. Jamie has excellent sailmaking skills, so we’ll look for a sewing machine to beg/borrow for our repairs The main cabin settee covers are literally disintegrating, so they’ll need recovering, as the foam cushions beneath are starting to get damaged. The settees look OK at a distance, but are breaking down after five years of hard use

That’s just the short list. There’s an even longer wish list of basic cosmetics and comfort that includes the awning, our cockpit table, cockpit cushions, the mainsail cover, our overburdened refrigeration system, and those ungracefully aging originals to Totem, the yellowed Formica counters and basket weave embossed vinyl headliner. Can I whitewash the cabin while we’re at it? Hopefully we can get to some of these.

Our stopgap cockpit cushions are thin pool-cover foam sheets. They’re not surviving the UV well. We’re not comfortable cruisers with an allowance from secure investments at home, or ongoing part time work that brings a sufficient income stream. We’ve been stringing ourselves along since we left in 2008: making a bit here and there, spending as little as we can, salvaging the kitty with stint of work in Australia. The list of pre-Indian Ocean projects is easily in five figures, which is daunting. Thus our plans, as cruising plans are wont to do, are up in the air while we evaluate the options. We might still cross the Indian Ocean in 2014, but far more likely scenario that we’ll stay in Southeast Asia instead. There are a few possibilities for work. It’s inexpensive living. It’s a good place to work on the boat.

Is this disappointing? Hardly. We have studiously avoided the P word in the past. Grand plans were never truly plans, but intentions. We are not the cruisers who lay out a three year plan to circumnavigate and do it. Our goals are a little different, and more centered around a life afloat as a family than a geographic goal. Oh, there might be a disappointed fourteen year old on board who is quick to remind us he would really like to get to the Med. We’d like for him to get there, too! And so, we…plan, to patch things together with an eye to when, and not if.

If you’re reading this on the Sailfeed website, you’ve just tipped change into our cruising kitty Indian Ocean preparation budget- thank you!

High Risk Ferry Landing on Greek Island of Kimolos

Sail Feed - Mon, 2013-12-30 18:19

This looks like a very bad idea. It’s a long video, so skip around to get the gist. Wow, I thought I’d had some wet dinghy landings…

ONLINE VISUALIZATIONS: Melted Ice Caps, Global Wind

Sail Feed - Mon, 2013-12-30 12:51

There seems to be a mild proliferation lately of cool online weather and climate toys to play with. I quite like the Ocean Currents Map I recently mentioned here, and now comes two more visualization gadgets to help hone your procrastination skills. The more alarming one is a Rising Seas interactive map from National Geographic that shows where the land will and won’t be once the polar ice caps have finished melting.

As you can see in the image up top, all of Florida and the U.S. south and Gulf coasts will be underwater. Another interesting feature is that Australia will be blessed with a large inland sea.

Meanwhile, there’s an Earth Wind Map that offers up a truly global perspective in real time of what the world’s winds are up to. It is considerably more interactive than the Rising Seas map, as you can zoom in and out, rotate the globe, and even get pinpoint surface-wind readings by clicking on any particular spot.

For example, during my tour of the world this morning, I found the windiest spot on the planet (at 57 knots) was this patch of the North Atlantic, where a nice winter storm is howling away south of Greenland.

For ocean sailors, of course, it is tempting to try to use these sorts of real-time toys, which channel current computer modeling data, as planning tools, but one should be a bit circumspect about this. In my correspondence with Rich Signell, one of the creators of the Ocean Currents Map, he warned me in no uncertain terms that the map was not intended to be used for navigational purposes.

But then that’s what they always say, isn’t it?

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