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 Niña 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.