Thursday, September 27, 2012


Well, you know how it goes - your out for a great sail, be it for a week, or a year, or a decade, and suddenly it's nearly over.  You find yourself having that one last meal of oysters and mussels...

 ...and one last session of throwing rocks into the water...

...and sharing an anchorage with mates one last time...

...and having one last sail in the rain.

And thus it was for us.  Albuera Street Primary School was reopening its doors to the youth of Sandy Bay, and we weren't going to miss out.

So we sailed into Hobart at dusk on a Sunday night.  That's Mt. Wellington below, the essential Hobart landmark.

Hobart has to be one of the more beautiful little cities in the world.  Nothing grand or spectacular or over-the-top, but it's a fantastic place to sail into at dusk, this friendly place at one of the far reaches of the world.  We'll miss it when we leave for good.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


So Elias has been stepping in the role of dinghy driver on our school holiday sail.  He still hasn't tried landing at the beach or alongside Galactic, but he's with practice he's gotten pretty good at steering a reasonably straight course.

What he mastered instantly, though, was requisite expression - that quintessential half-squint/half scowl that appears on the face of every crusty guy in Alaska who is driving an outboard.

How did a six-year-old come up with such convincing bags under his eyes?

And then there's the question of my expression.  This picture was taken while we were reefed down and heeled over and beating into a spitting rain.  And, who knew, but it seems that I need just the tiniest bit of hardship to make me really happy.

That might explain a lot.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recherche Bay

Here we are at Recherche Bay, at the southern extremity of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.  That's Galactic anchored to the left, and our mates on Triddar to the right.

I'm happy to follow the locals in pronouncing Recherche Bay as "research bay", though I'm pretty sure that's not quite French.  Bruni D'Entrecasteaux's expedition landed here in 1792 and 1793 - it's hard to imagine how different the world, and this place, were that long ago.

We had a great stay here on Pelagic two years ago, on our very last trip on that great boat before Eric was born.  This time around we only had one night in the place, before a south wind had us packing up and heading back up the channel.  Sailors either live by the wind, or they motor.

It was a short stay, but great.  Our friend Rob kindly dove into the water and produced five abalone, which were the centerpiece of a barbie ashore.

Those are balls of dough perched on the ends of sticks and cooking over the fire - a trick Alisa learned form a Dane at a beach fire in the Tuamotus.

Note the abalone shell bowl.  Not sure who the old guy feeding Eric is.

When it was all over Elias put out the fire.

Besides the abalone and beach fire, the other real highlight was this leopard seal basking on a beach.

I think of leopard seals as being one of the emblematic animals of Antarctica, and is was a surprise and a treat to see one here.  We figured it was having the leopard seal version of a tropical beach holiday.

Our sail back up the channel was gentle enough for card playing in the cockpit.

At Mickey's Bay we happened upon our friends John and Shirley on Dove Tail.  There are almost no pleasure boats about at this season, and it seems that we've known just about every boat we've shared an anchorage with.  Actually, come to think of it, that's literally true - we've known every boat that we've shared an anchorage with.

We all of us took a walk over to Cloudy Bay, a surf-beaten spot with a very tidal lagoon at the head that we remember fondly from our last sail down this way.  Here Elias is looking particularly glum because he's just learned what it feels like to top your boots.

Once we were back at Mickey's and pushing our dinghy Smooches out over the tide flats, Elias doubled down by finding out what it feels like to get your boots stuck in the soft sand and then fall over in the cold water when trying to free yourself.  Turns out that six years old is not too old to break into tears over falling in the water.  He regained his composure when we let him drive the dinghy back to the mother ship.

And that's the state of us.  We're now bravely working our way back to town with light and contrary winds and an engine that could have used some TLC before this trip, rather than after.

Along the way we've learned something about how two little boys can be delightful raconteurs to share a boat cabin with on one day, and scourges of the life afloat on another.  And I've also had time to reflect on the idea that just as we planned for years to shut down our life on shore and head out on this oversized marine camping trip, we'll also have to plan for years to prepare for our eventual segue back into a content shore-based life.

But more on all that later.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I really don't write much about boat maintenance on the blog.  I figure that if I let myself start I might not be able to stop, as working on the boat is the background and foreground of this life afloat, the alpha and the omega of it.  We had a full list of jobs to complete on the boat the day we bought her, and we'll have a full list the day this voyage finally ends.  

But I'll make an exception here, as this little foray after our months-long confinement at the dock has been a moveable feast of marine engineering, a veritable cornucopia of deferred maintenance outcomes.

The leaking fluids from the engine (fuel and coolant) that I convinced myself were not that big a problem when running at the dock have reclaimed their rightful place at the forefront of that part of my brain that is given over to boat concerns.

We have suffered through the Mysterious Advent of water in the bilge, and the genset that Would Not Fire.

And then, when a fit of get-after-it spirit took a hold of me and I changed the fuel filters, Alisa and I tackled one of the few two-person engineering tasks on board Galactic - bleeding the fuel lines.

She in the cockpit, me in the engine room, taps of wrenches on steel our only means of communication, we set out on the long dry voyage of cranking over the engine while fuel spewed and air bubbled from a cracked injector nut.

Then, a whiff of smoke and the crackling sound of electrical destruction told us we had cranked the engine too far.  Turning the key produced absolutely nothing.  The starter motor had cranked its last.

So, in retrospect, it would have maybe been a better idea to change the fuel filters back at the dock, where a failed starter motor wouldn't have been that big a deal.

But, then, a timely comment from our friend Rob on Triddar about the solenoid on the starter being a potential source of the problem led to a bit of informed investigation, and, long story short, it turned out that the starter and its solenoid were both blameless.

Boat geeks who really enjoy this sort of thing will get a kick out of this - it turns out the positive post of the starting battery had melted completely through while we were cranking the engine - see the pic above.  I've never heard of such a thing before.  I guess that cheap Chinese boat batteries just aren't the same these days...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where We're At

For those of you who could use a little context when it comes to the geography of Tasmania, this is where we're at - in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, south of the Sandstone Jungle that is Greater Metropolitan Hobart.

Our pace over the last week has been restrained - we've anchored at Snake Island, Dover, and now, Southport.

Elias at a midden site. 

That slow pace has been perfect.  One of the things that I looked forward to most when we left home on a sailboat five years ago was the opportunity to reclaim the wide-open landscapes of time that I had roamed in my twenties, and that is still one of the best parts of sailing as a family - it makes us rich in time.

We have bushwalked in the rain, we have eaten oysters and mussels with friends, we have met kind strangers who have invited us to their homes.

We have listened to frogs singing from the tussock-fringed puddles, and we have all spotted bird species we've never seen before.

How could a week in town possibly compete?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What I Learned

What I learned on our school holiday sail (so far):

I learned the schoolyard names that my six-year-old and his friends use on each other: "silly duffer" and "ratbag".  Very Australian epithets, those.  Of course, he says "duffa" without the r, like any Aussie kid.

He and I now have an understanding.  He can take his chances calling me a silly duffer, but I will not stand to be called ratbag by any child of mine.

I learned that I still know how to get the spinnaker up and down without too much fanfare.  (I also learned that I'm still pretty ordinary when it comes to helping Alisa learn new sailing skills.)

 I learned that kids love the beach, regardless of temperature.

I learned that kids denied the beach by inclement weather find ways to burn up incredible amounts of energy in the confines of the cabin.

And I learned that we still need a new engineer.

But more on that later.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And, a(nother) winner...

Ok, the winner of the third monthly book giveaway is one rvennis, from somewhere in Canada....

Great, as always, to get messages from people entering.  I've got one more of those publicity copies left, which means that there will be one more chance to win a copy in October.

And, there's been a good unanticipated side effect of doing these giveaways - hearing from people who want a copy is motivating me to get going on publishing South From Alaska in North America.

Getting a book published is the only task I can think of that is so spectacularly uninviting and generally not-fun that it can make the actual writing of the book seem pleasant.  But still, these things have to be done...

Meanwhile, school holidays are officially on here in Tasmania.  So once we take care of a day or three of boat jobs, and once the wind dies down enough for us to back out of the marina pen safely, we're going sailing...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

That's So Tassie

Little kids on boats - say what you will (and I've got a lot to say on the topic) - it's not a relaxing mix.  This scene below is just completely par for the course for us - our mob, plus another family with two little kids, plus another friend, all thrown into the saloon for a visit.  Totally enjoyable as long as you're not too worried about being able to finish your sentences. 

The genesis for this particular get-together was a great bit of happenstance.  When I was here back in 1998, I walked the South Coast Track and shared the trail for a day or two with three locals lads.  And it turns out that one of them - Doug, on the right below, knows our mate from the Falklands, Liev, and remembered meeting me way back then, fourteen years or so ago.  That's a pretty good coincidence, though a common enough sort of random connection to be unremarkable.  The fun extra is that Doug and his gal Libby recently bought a bright yellow German sailboat that Alisa and I came damn close to purchasing ourselves.  There are a lot of sailboats for sale in the world, and it was really fun to talk to the folks who ended up owning the boat that was once at the center of our attention.  When we've told other friends here about this double coincidence, they all say, "That's so Tassie."

So after coffee with this lot of adults and their attendant small-fry, we trucked down to Kettering, where we met up with our mates on Aratika and Triddar and had - what else, a get-together featuring six kids and two sailboats.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Plants on Boats

Superstition is just religion for sailors who don't have time for theology or dogma...or for belief, I suppose.

I've always bought into a few traditional sailor's superstitions.  One of them: no plants on boats.  Plants, you see, are often green.  Just like the shore.  And if you carry plants around on your boat, said boat might get confused and start to seek out the shore.

The logic goes something like that.  But it's best not to get too hung up on logic when it comes to superstition.  Just decide how much superstition you'll incorporate into your life afloat and go with it.  And really, you are robbing yourself if you're a full-time sailor and don't follow a few maritime superstitions.  Absolutely nothing is more embedded in the history of seafaring than superstition.

Well, OK, that and getting drunk in port.

But back to plants on boats.  They're not copacetic, superstition-wise.  And beyond that, nothing says marina-bound boat more than a bunch of houseplants in the cockpit.

So, with that as a background, I'll tell you that yesterday was Father's Day here in the Middle-Class Refugium of the Antipodes.

And Elias, for Father's Day, gave me...the cacti in the photo above.

I kind of like the cute little things.  Today I put them up in the greenhouse of the dodger during the daytime, and then brought them back down to the chart table when the afternoon grew chill...

...but they're definitely not making the trip to New Zealand with us.