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!