Photos from India

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sailing the Whitsundays

Finally some sunshine this afternoon in the Whitsunday islands here in Australia. Bill (the captain) and I just finished a leftover pasta dish mixed up with some of the mackerel that we had a couple of nights ago. Not a bad meal after a wonderful day of sailing. The first two days, with lots of spray, scattered rain showers and cooler temperatures, we both had resorted to wearing our raincoats full time. Today started off much the same, but by the afternoon, the skies had cleared and we were enjoying the sun on our backs, clear skies and fair winds carrying us due South, a little closer to our destination of Port Mackay. The journey through the WhitSundays and along the Eastern Coast of Australia has been everything that I have wanted out of a trip on a sail boat. The days start slow with a cup of fresh coffee, followed by breakfast, maybe a dip in the water and then a full day of sailing with a destination in mind, but no particular anchorage picked out. Where we end up at the end of the day just depends on the winds that carry us and the amount of distance we can cover with those winds. No rush and no worries!
Life aboard Seawanhaka feels like a step back in time, minus the ipod and the laptop of course. As we haven’t been bothered to refuel the kerosene lanterns in the past couple of days, I am enjoying typing by candlelight at the dinner table. Above me is an enormous hatch. We keep it open when we are at anchor and it is not raining to reveal the millions of stars above and the bright moon shining in. With a full moon approaching, it is almost enough light coming in to eliminate the candles and lanterns altogether. The other night after dinner, since I cooked, it was Bill’s turn to clean up and I just kind of laid back on the bench in the saloon staring up at the stars. I awoke a bit later, realized where I was, but couldn’t be bothered to actually climb into my bed. A few raindrops landing on my head later in the night indicated that it was time to actually close the hatch and climb into my bed. The next morning, Bill told me that I had found the recliner. Apparently, everyone who sits where I do at dinner, falls asleep in that same position pretty often.
So, from here, we have two more days of sailing to reach Port Mackay. The winds are supposed to be a bit lighter so we will be taking two days to go just a short distance. Should be a pretty relaxing sail all the way in. Not that what we have done so far has been anything but relaxing. During the days, we have only seen a couple of other boats. Since leaving Airlie beach, we haven’t seen any other boats at any of the anchorages we have been in. Tonight there are actually a few lights a mile or so off on the Australian mainland coast, but the past two nights, the only lights we have seen have been our anchor light, the moon and the stars. Everything about this trip so far is exactly why I enjoy life aboard a sailboat.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sailing through the Whitsundays and on to the Solemon Islands

Have you ever listened to Norah Jones before? If so, then maybe you can relate to where I am right now. As I listen to her singing, I can’t imagine a better way to describe everything that surrounds me at this moment. The soft notes and voice come across the stereo in the bottom of the boat I am on and makes everything fit into place. I don't know of a place that I could be that could have a more relaxed form of living than where I am right now. On the wall to my side are two kerosene lanterns and the shadows in the room dance with the flickering of the flame. The boat is a 1925 wooden Schooner called Seawanhaka which means the island of shells. She was built in Maine and has had a long history of owners and changes over the years. Compared to modern day boats that are the same length (58’), she doesn’t have the same spaciousness or luxury about her, however, every bit of this boat has a charm of it’s own that reminds me of the music that I am sitting here listening to. The boat possesses a character and feeling that is of a life past where televisions, DVD players and internet didn’t exist. I feel like I have stepped back in time almost 100 years.
Without the luxuries of modern day sailing yachts, I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated stepping onto the boat with the captain and owner Bill Hanlon. As he showed me to my cabin, I tried to decide if I had made the right decision or not. Now, I am sitting here enjoying a glass of wine and some olives while I type my journal and realize that the journey I am about to embark on is something that I have dreamed of doing my entire life. The charm and character of being on an old wooden boat with it’s tight spaces, wooden mast penetrating the galley, and little hammock like storage nets all around is an indescribable experience. Imagine the club house you dreamed of building as a child and letting it float out onto the ocean to take you to the most remote and least visited places in the world. That is Seawhanhaka.
Tomorrow will be our first day of sailing and we will depart from Airlie Beach, Australia and head out into the Whitsunday Islands. I was here seven years ago and everything is very familiar. Although the town has grown quite rapidly and added a giant salt water swimming pool that is covered in young and beautiful backpackers, it still keeps the same small beachside feeling that it had seven years ago. From here, we will spend a few days sailing and exploring the Whitsunday islands and then head down to a town called Port McCay. There, we are planning to have the boat pulled out of the water, do a little painting on the bottom and repair a small leak in the hull. From Port McCay, we will head 1000 miles north into the South Pacific to the an isolated group of islands called the Solemon islands. After the Solemons, we will head to the islands of Papau New Guinea before returning to Australia. Papau New Guinea and the Solemon islands are some of the most primitive areas still existing in the world today. I can’t imagine a better way to visit them than on this sailboat. No showers aboard replaced by a bucket to dip into the sea combined with the kerosene lanterns, make it seem more like an extended expedition than any form of luxury cruise that most people think that I am on. The majority of the places we visit will not have electricity or running water and the people probably have never even seen ice before, much less a cold drink.
While visiting these areas, the captain and some of his friends have been collecting things for us to bring to the people up there. We have a cabin full of clothes both new and old as well as boxes of pens, pencils and any kind of books and pictures that we can find. The children there should be pretty excited to see us, and from what I understand, we can trade most of the things we are bringing for fresh fruits and whatever other types of food are available in the area. It is definitely going to be an amazing and interesting experience. I am told that we don’t swim in the water at each island until we talk to the locals as there are so many crocodiles in the oceans around the water. As for contact via email, I am afraid that I won’t have much of that. The boat does have what is called sail mail, but we are limited to only a small amount of use a week and it is very slow. Hopefully, I can keep up with some journal entries here and have someone back home update them for me. Anyway, I am not sure when I will get to email many of my friends and family next so please keep checking in for more information regarding my travels!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Departing Hawaii for a new adventure in Australia

Well, my term on "Sugarcane", a 55' Gulfstar sailing vessel was short lived. After arriving in Hawaii and being welcomed onto a beautiful yet extremely clutered boat, I felt very good about everything. Those feelings would shortly change! Now, the first day I arrived, my bunk room looked like an enormous storage closet. I didn't think much of it until taking everything out and realizing that there was absoloutely no storage on the boat. The captain had however aquired a ridiculous amount of stuff that we did not have space for and he refused to part with any of it. Among the items I tried to convince him that we did not need were an ab wheel, not that he had exercised in years, a broken scale, 300 pair of vinyl gloves (I don't want to know what thoser were for), and multiple old phone books. Strangely enough, I didn't find a single spare sail on board or anything that resembled a piece of the rigging on the boat. Between all of the clutter and realizing that the bunks had no way of securing you into your bed while we were under way, I quickly realized that whenever we set sail, the inside of the boat was going to be a very dangerous place to be.
After a few days of working on the boat and getting it ready and cleaned up, it now looked even more cluttered than before. We kept getting stuff out and he would not let us organize or put anything back. Our progress in getting the boat ready for sail was going backwards. Forgetting the clutter for a minute, but one morning the captain says to me to plot a course on the gps over to the big island for our first sail. I asked him if he wanted to walk me through it since I hadn't used his gps before. He said he didn't know how to use it and that I just needed to figure it out. This was the first major alarm when I realized that the captain didn't know how to navigate his own boat. As the next couple of days went on, I also realized that the captain had no clue how to sail his own boat either. Combine that with the fact that rather than sailing to Australia, he now wanted to head to the west coats of Mexico. I informed him that it was hurricane season off the coast of Mexico and was not a good place to be sailing in the next couple of months. He dismissed me as if I did not know what I was doing and said he would worry about that.
The rest of the crew was having the same feelings as me. Our mechanic began looking for another boat as did I. Our cook arrived and booked a flight home the next morning. Appareantly he had told her that she would have her own cabin and private bathroom. Not the case. She was sleeping on the bunk below me and sharing a bath with the mechanic and I. Things were falling apart and when I realized that he had to have someone else on the island bring his boat from another port that is only 30 miles away to where it was now docked, I decided that I wanted off immediately so I could find another boat. The captain and I had a discussion about his plans and about where we were going, we exchanged a few words and I who had already packed my bags earlier in the day, got up and got off the boat. That was three days ago.
In the meantime, I have been very bored and a bit down, not having a plan. Combine that with the fact that my grandmother passed away and as of this morning, I was considering coming home for a few days for the funeral and to sort out where I was going. That all changed today when I heard from a guy in Australia. I asked some questions via email, he called and we discussed a few things and now I am headed to Australia. We will spend a few weeks sailing there and then on to the Solomon islands and Papau New Guinea for a few months. Exactly where I wanted to be! If you want to check out the boats website, it is Well worth the visit for an amazing boat and a captain who has been on an amazing adventure! Not sure what this boat and the places I am going will mean for me being able to contact everyone, but I am pretty sure that the emails and journal entries will be few and far between. I will try and keep up with them from the boat and then post a few at a time when I get to the internet, and probably the same with emails. Wish me luck with this one, but I am starting to think that this mishap has been a blessing in disguise. Without coming to Hawaii, I would not have had the chance to stop by home and spend a week with my grandmother and would have never seen her again. Combine that with I have a very good feeling about the boat I am joining so I think it all has worked out quite well all said and done!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

From South America to the South Pacific

It’s Sunday, May 13th and I am about half way between the continental U.S. and the Hawaiian islands. I have explained to most everyone back home in Alabama how it came about that I am here, but for everyone who missed that story, I shall explain.
Originally, I had lined up passage on a sailboat that I was to crew on, starting in Tonga on June 7th. The owner of the boat and his fiancee were in New Zealand getting the boat ready when his fiancee became very ill. It turns out that she has cancer all over her insides. I have not heard much further from the captain since the cancellation of this trip, but I do keep them in my prayers every day. Now this news was definitely a shock to me and I was not sure about what I should do. Since I found out about it the day before I was flying to Peru to get on the Inca trail, I decided not to worry about the affect it had on me at that time. After taking in the sudden change in plans, I started exploring the possibility of finding other boats in the South Pacific to crew on. I sent emails and researched postings on line for different sites with crew finders on them and decided to leave it up to fate. Worst case, I stayed in South America longer. I figure a good six months down there is what it would take to really see most of the continent. Hopefully, I can get back down there at some point in my journey and take the time to see everything. My short trip there, was no where near long enough, but everyday was another adventure through and amazing landscape, like nothing I have seen before. By the time I had confirmation from the boat I am joining, “Sugarcane”, I was on an Isle del Sol in Lake Titicaca, near Copacabana, Bolivia. There was not email on the island so when I returned, I found I had the opportunity to be on my choice of two different boats. After careful consideration and a phone call to one of the owners of the boats, I decided to join Sugarcane. It was May 3rd, and he wanted me to be in Hawaii on May 10th. I told the captain and owner of the boat that I would head to La Paz that afternoon and see what I could work out.
After a 3 and a half hour bus ride, I arrived in La Paz in time to stop by the office of the airline whom I already had a flight back to the U.S. booked with. The cost to fly me to Miami from La Paz was around $1,000 so needless to say, that was out of the questions. I could change my flight from May 24th out of Lima for $100. This was acceptable to me, and the soonest they could get me out of Lima was on May 6th. After careful consideration, I determined that I could get to Lima by then and decided to change my flight. Three days away, an entirely different country and about 1500 miles away, it would be a long journey to make. If anything went wrong, I would not make it home. I called the captain told him I would be there around the twelfth and spent the rest of the evening arranging all of my travels.
The next morning began with a walk to the bus station, followed by a 12 hour bus ride to Cuzco along the shore of Lake Titicaca. Now 12 hours may sound like a long time on bus to most of you, but this is pretty standard in South America. Between reading The Life of Pi along the way, and looking out the window, the trip practically flew by. While at one of the stops, I had met a couple of Irish girls who were on the bus and were heading into Cuzco as well. When we arrived, the thee of us checked into the same hostel, and I gave them a five minute tour of the town since I had been there before. We all went out for dinner and enjoyed a typical three dollar three course meal. The next day began with an early flight to Lima from Cuzco, followed by a day exploring Lima with an American couple whom I met at the airport in Cuzco. After a long day of seeing as much of the city as possible, including a strange Chinatown, I was starting to feel the affects of being tired from so much travel. The next day was the journey to Miami. It took three flights to cross the borders of four different countries. I went from Peru to Columbia to Costa Rica and finally made it to the U.S. at the Miami airport at almost midnight. After arriving and going through customs, I found a dark spot to sleep for a few hours and awoke at four in the morning, took a cab to the train station and rode the train to the Fort Lauderdale airport. There, I flew to Orlando, switched planes and finally arrived in Birmingham, Alabama where my sister picked me up from the airport along with my niece and nephew.
It was nice to have a few days back home, to catch up with friends and see all of my family. Since I was flying on free Southwest flights, the trip to Alabama was right on the way from Miami to L.A, where I needed to be to catch the flight to Hawaii that I am on right now. From what I could tell, Alabama had not changed much since I left. Things seemed to be going on just as before, but I have to admit that I missed it. The five days I spent there, were filled mostly with running errands and getting things together for my trip to the South Pacific. New swimsuits, a new day pack, a laptop and plenty of paperbacks donated from several friends were my newest travel supplies. I spent as much time with my different friends and family as I could. It was great to see everyone and I wish I had more time there. At the moment, I don’t know when I will return or for how long, but fortunately, I will have cell phone service while in Hawaii so if anyone wants to catch up, please give me a call!