Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Broken Watch and Our Decision To Stay

After my rampant enthusiasm last week, I hit a few hurdles with the projects I was working on... and... well... I... procrastinated! (yes, the dreaded 'p' word). 

Instead of working on the boat or learning Adobe Flash, I wasted hours online looking at watches in online stores. My trusty flik flak that I've had since I was in grade 4 died the day we left Brisbane (symbolic huh!). Instead of paying to get it fixed I decided that it was time to get a "grown-up" watch. Well. It turns out there are billions of cool watch designs out there! I narrowed my search to about 15 Swatch watches and 10 flik flaks. I knew I was being really bad - wasting so much time - Rene reminded I was being silly - but I just kept going back to those websites and looking at watches! Wasting time on time devices designed to make you keep better time!

They call me the Rusta Busta! yo
I eventually settled on a very simple watch and will hopefully receive it in the mail soon. As soon as I had purchased it online, I felt renewed energy to tackle the jobs I'd been putting off because they'd become "too hard". The watch had really become a symbol for me being stuck. I finished working on the rusty spots, painted them multiple times and insulated them, I finished insulating more storage holds and have just vacuum-packed all of our warm gear for storage. Rene has moved our engine battery to a new spot under the floorboards but is yet to wire it all back together. The fridge stopped working last week because it had leaked out all of its gas :( A local retired fridgee (who is a real character!) has come around the last two nights to re-gas it, and things are getting a little cooler but there's no ice yet!

As for learning Flash, well, I worked through more video tutorials but the tutor is focusing more and more on Action Script (using code to get the website to work) rather than using the timeline to animate it with a little bit of simple code. I've decided to try out making a basic website in a way I'm comfortable with before moving on to the really geeky stuff! 

Marathon Lady setting off on their cruise.
This week one of the boats we've got to know while living here at the marina left on their shakedown cruise. Marathon Lady and her crew have been in Townsville for many years and seeing them off really gave me a case of the itchy feet syndrome!! The weather is so clear and warm at the moment and the water looks gorgeous! aaaaagh! Hopefully we'll get to sail over to Maggie Island again very soon so it feels like we're free again. We hope to meet with Marathon Lady again in the Sail Indonesia Rally next July. 

There's been a fair bit of hype in the media about this year being forecast to have a particularly severe cyclone season. It's a La Niña year so the QLD coast is potentially going to be hit by up to around 6 cyclones (much more than usual!). We have decided to stay here in northern QLD - despite these predictions. The locals here say not to worry because every year the media tries to drum up fear about cyclones being bad this year. The main reason we don't want to turn around and sail all the way back to Brisbane is that it took us nearly 5 months to get this far! It feels like we've achieved a step towards our dream of further travel. To simply turn around would go against our feeling (possibly delusional!) that even though we're not currently travelling, we are still in the cruising mentality as we are on our slow journey. Cruising is about waiting for good weather - we have to wait for the La Niña summer to finish so we can head north next winter. I really hope we don't come to regret our decision to stay here - please weather Gods - be gentle!!! If there is a cyclone in Townsville, the marina should be safe enough if it's a category 3 or below. The only danger here is that the storm surge will go higher than the pontoons allow - and so all the boats would end up in the park I guess (:s). If there is a cyclone forecast to hit that is category 4 or 5, we will try to get up to Hinchinbrook Island to tie up in one of the many mangrove creeks. This is a tried and tested method of cyclone survival for boats. We will be monitoring the weather closely in any case - we don't want to take any risks.

We have had some progress in the ongoing renaming yacht saga - we've gone through dozens and dozens of names since I last mentioned it in the blog. The current favourites are:
Out to dinner thanks to Rene's boss :D

I really like Ani because it's simple, easy to remember/pronounce and it also is a type of bird!!
Any thoughts / suggestions will be gladly accepted.

And finally, a bit of glitz and glam in our lives as Rene's boss paid for us to go out to dinner somewhere nice. We're normally very frugal and don't go out to dinner so this was a real treat. He had a crazy week of work with many late late nights so it was a lovely for his boss to acknowledge all the hard work Rene's been putting in. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Live Your Dreams

Panoramic views from atop Castle Hill
Sisters exploding out of the free pool at Riverway
BBQ picnic - Ibis birds circled us as we ate
Jez (my awesome little sister) and Tam (also awesome) visited us again for a few days holiday from their hectic WWOOFing schedule. Willing Workers On Organic Farms seems to these days be a pretty broad category - they have so far worked in a 4 star restaurant, a tropical fruit winery and now a rainforest resort! For those who have never heard of it, WWOOFing involves working about 6 hours a day in return for food and board - it's pretty popular with backpackers as an affordable way to travel. 
Tam with Boxy the car sporting her new sticker.
As always, it was super fun to hang with family and take time out to just be silly and have fun. Some highlights include BBQ's on the Strand, swimming at Riverway and at the Rockpool, climbing Castle Hill, driving Boxy (who is now sporting a blue stripe and a name sticker!!), dancing in the rain on the beach at night, eating too much ice-cream, drinking amazing wine from the winery they'd just been working at (www.shannonvalewine.com.au), and playing heaps of board games on the boat. Jez and I jogged the Strand and she taught me some techniques like standing up straight and going slowly which helped me make it further before running out of air. My aim is to be able to job the whole Strand (about 4Km return I think).

The pain in my back which I've had for over a month now (brought on by sleeping at a very rolly anchorage on Maggie Island) decided to become more of a nuisance and so I caved in and went to to a physiotherapist. I think my body was telling me to get into Pilates again because, after doing the pilates-based exercises the physio recommended, I'm almost 100% better! I realised that I have been a little slack with my fitness training - probably as a result of not really having a set routine. Usually I include exercise as part of my daily work schedule and, since I'm not really working, I haven't really been doing it! Sure, I've been walking a lot and jogging a bit, but that's nothing like core strength exercise! 

Agreeable graffiti atop Castle Hill
I'm feeling re-invigorated to work towards achieving my dreams. For a while now, I've felt as though I'm in limbo - happy to take time off from being a teacher, but unsure about whether cruising on a boat is really for me. I realise now that a big reason for my wanting to leave was to get away from my job which I had allowed to take over my life. Teaching is a very intense profession and I didn't really manage to develop balance between work and life because the job was so demanding and I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I think I burned out and need a break before I'm ready to teach again. So, I've extended my leave again - this time until 2012. For now I'm happy doing boaty jobs and looking after Rene while he works between 40 and 50 hours a week. These are some of the jobs I've been working on: repainting the transom with topcoat 2pac, de-rusting and then painting the ceiling and supports for the cockpit cover, de-rusting and then re-painting a spot of rust found inside a storage locker and de-moulding and cleaning (as usual).

Painted cockpit cover ceiling
Scraping away rust
While we were cruising, I always felt as though I was half-living. Part of me was always questioning whether this was what I really wanted to do. Was I just doing this as an elaborate way to take a break from my career? Did I really enjoy sailing or was it all too scary? Did I just want to live in a little house/flat by the sea? Am I even built for sailing, being so white and unable to tan? Should we be having kids and/or paying off a mortgage like most people our age? Didn't I miss all of our friends and family back home? Was this whole cruising thing just Rene's dream built from nostalgic memories of his childhood? and so it went on....

For a while, I decided that I didn't wish to continue - I was listening to my fear. But I didn't want to just return to Brisbane and to my old job already did I?

I want to travel - I always have.  

We chose to buy a yacht instead of a house so that we could live and travel long-term. I know now that I really do want to continue to live on Anhinga.

Cheeky grins at the Rockpool

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

True Spirit

'Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.'  
Helen Keller

In my last post I mentioned that I'd enjoyed reading Jessica Watson's book True Spirit and that I'd learnt a lot from her. (For those who need reminding, Jessica Watson is the youngest person to ever sail solo, unassisted and non-stop around the world). My mother in law, Jan, asked me to specify what I'd liked about the book because she thought it would simply just be a rehash of Jessica's blog posts....
Well, it does include most of her blogs... but it also includes so much more! 
What I found most enjoyable was that Jessica often explains the 'real' story behind her blogs - what else was going on and what she didn't publish at the time for various reasons. The biggest message for me though was 'feel the fear, and do it anyway'. I have struggled with my own fears/worries about everything from imaginary jellyfish to waves and things that go bump in the night. And so, in seeking a way to overcome this, I have sought encouragement in reading about Jessica. When she was little, she was afraid of everything - she wouldn't even go swimming in the pool with her siblings. Gradually, she learnt to get over the fear (I think her stubbornness was a major factor) and went on to achieve something that most people would never attempt in their whole lives - at the age of 16!

Her big message throughout the book is that anything can be achieved if you believe in yourself, have a dream and aren't afraid of working hard towards that dream. She also emphasised that planning is everything when it comes to travelling by sea. 

Jessica has an amazingly strong character. She talked herself out of feeling scared, angry, upset, frustrated, homesick and overwhelmed. She did this by talking to herself and forcing herself to see the bigger picture. She realised (as we all do at some time) that the only person we can truly rely upon is ourselves. And, she was able to rely on herself to get rid of the negative emotions and replace them with positive ones. This is something that I still struggle with - I have a tendency to blame others for my own problems and then try and get others to solve my problems for me! I think Jessica's method of building her own bridge to get over with her own strength is inspirational. 

So essentially, Jessica Watson's book traces her life story from cruising up the QLD coast with her family as a tweenager (I spelt it like that on purpose btw)  to tackling the seas of the world alone. She has taught me a lot and I will continue to admire her for her courage and strength of character.

'Throw back the shoulders, let the heart sing, 
let the eyes flash, let the mind be lifted up,
look upward and say to yourself... 
Nothing is impossible!' 
Norman Vincent Peale

This week, we gave away one of the old sail's (that was sitting around taking up space) to our neighbour here in the marina - he thinks it will fit his boat, Tarnica. I glued more carpet onto the hull (but still have a lot more of this to do). Rene sorted out the cords of chaos that had developed into an insane tangled maze - we love technology but despise all of the cords that accompany it! He also built a special 15watt plug for the marina's outlet as that is one of their (many) requirements.

Rene's inverse portrait (from the back).
We had fun at the local regional gallery here - they held an event called The Big Draw and we got to make stand-up portraits of ourselves.

While at the local internet den to print some forms (they never seem to end do they?), Rene noticed that the painting above the counter illustrated an invention idea that he'd had a few years ago. The invention was for a horse bicycle - the horcycle - the theory being that if humans can go much faster on a bike, why not horses? He posted his idea on a website that caters for this kind of crazy idea (you can read his idea and check out this cool website here http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/horcycle#1149837956
We wonder if the artist read Rene's idea and was inspired to paint?

Rene with a local artwork depicting his invention idea.
On a lighthearted note, we finished watching the Seinfeld series - I would often watch an episode or two while making dinner and have finally completed them all after about 6 months! We also finally finished listening to an amazing audio book series by Philip Pullman called His Dark Materials. The first book in this series was made into the film The Golden Compass (starring Nicole Kidman) but due to the anti-religious message of the remaining two books, they will probably never be made into feature length films. We think that Studio Ghibli (makers of: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and so many more) should animate the story - it has all of the characteristics of their kind of stories (strong female character, spirits, adventure, self-discovery etc). But until this happens, we thoroughly recommend reading or listening to the stories.

Some great out-doorsy times this week, including a picnic on The Strand, lying under the shade of palm trees with sea breezes caressing our skin. Then last night, we jogged for most of the way back from the Rockpool at night and I loved all of the endorphins! I want to practice jogging and become better at it - any tips? I seem to run out of air very quickly!
Peaceful picnic view.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Going Troppo

I've decided to update this weekly now that we are settled in the one spot for a few months. I realise that it may not be as exciting to read about our life while we're not busy exploring untouched islands - but I still want to keep a record as I'm addicted to blogging now :D I have no idea how many people actually read this anyway... ? ...

Rene has continued to be a busy bee working between 35-40 hours a week, programming. He stays happy by walking and swimming with me most afternoons, listening to / creating music and eating his weight in chocolate, nuts, lollies and other terrible snacks! I've been able to resist the chocolate temptation - mostly due to the amazing pawpaw's that I keep buying at the markets here. I love tropical fruit!!!
They say you are what you eat!
I'm (trying to) strike a balance between boaty jobs and learning how to create websites in Flash. I didn't receive any calls to do supply work so far - which I'm quite happy about really! Sure, the money would be helpful... but I'm loving my freedom from the stress of controlling teenagers. I've been enjoying reading Jessica Watson's book True Spirit and have found out a lot more about the whole process she went through. She is so amazing and is still an inspiration for me.

The boat this week has:
- had the plastic cupboard of doom sorted/culled
- installed a longer pole for our hanging clothes 
- obtained a 4x4metre square of carpet, washed it and have started cutting it to size to glue into the hull as insulation. This will hopefully prevent more mould from growing during the wet season. 
- a wind-chute / sun-shield was finally completed for our aft cabin - I used far more canvas than I thought though and now need to source more for all of the other covers!
- mould has been cleaned off more of our winter jackets, wet weather gear and shoes
- Rene installed the replacement tricolour lights on top of the main mast - while up there, he discovered that a weld that holds the spinnaker halyard is tearing off (probably as a result of us using the halyard to haul the dinghy off and onto the boat). This problem will require some pretty substantial fixing - ah boats!
A new-found problem on top of the main mast! :(

Last night we went out to the Lifesavers Club for some live music. It turned out to be a great venue with some quality local music. The headlining act, Pachooka, was especially good and we started the dance floor jumping. We danced to their entire set!
I'm glad that we heard about this venue and went along to check it out as I was starting to feel a little annoyed at this town. I'm used to living in a capital city where if you want something, you can get it - fast; where if you ask advice from a business, you get a knowledgeable answer; where if you leave a message, you get a reply.
One local put it succinctly with 'Townsville makes you talk, think and act slower but drink faster'. I guess I was pretty naive about what it would really be like to live in northern qld... I'm learning fast that it's a pretty slow life up here. Just getting something delivered in the post takes over 2 weeks to get here from Brisbane!!!
I'm feeling OK about it though - if all goes to plan, we'll be living in one of the busiest cities in the world (Hong Kong) by the end of next year, and I will probably be thinking longingly about how calm and peaceful it was here in Townsville!!! As always, I have to remember not to think about how the 'grass is always greener' and simply live and be happy in this moment.

Pachooka on stage at the Lifesavers Club

Friday, October 1, 2010


The famous Castle Hill with its famous saint graffiti.
Cute street art on a local backpackers hostel front.
It has been a week now since we moved into the marina here in Townsville. So far I've loved the convenience of being able to simply step off the boat and be on land - ready to go out and about without having to fuss with the dinghy. Showers are still a novelty, as is having a laundry close by and unlimited power. Ironically, we have installed more energy efficient LED lights just when we have more power to use! It has been fun exploring this town and finding cool places. I didn't realise that Castle Hill (the only major hill in the area) had a stickman saint painted on it until a chat with my Dad - since then, every time I look up, I see the stickman! It is a local icon that a bunch of bored uni students painted as a prank back in the 60s. Not everyone loves 'The Saint' but it's kind of an interesting feature nonetheless (read more about it here http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/article/2008/09/27/16482_news.html)
Rene at The Rockpool - my first attempt at a panoramic shot... not quite horizontal!
I feel complete again now that I have a replacement waterproof digi camera - I've really struggled while it went away to warranty heaven. I had to pay a little more to get the replacement as the warranty didn't cover everything but I'm super relieved to be snap-happy again!
The last photo my old Olympus 1030 took back in Whitsundays.

First pic with my new Olympus uTough 8010 here in Townsville.
I've been tackling the mould that seemed to find its way into almost everything - especially anything leather (like my handbag!). I've also been tackling the heat of this tropical town! I'm quite worried as it is as hot now as it gets in Brisbane in the middle of summer... and it's only October!!! eeek! I trekked out to Bunnings (public transport here is an experience I wouldn't recommend) and bought a little fan - it has been going non-stop and still I'm sweating like crazy! Hopefully I'll gradually adjust and won't notice it as the temperatures and humidity rise and rise....

Rene has been working full-time and I've been full-time with other projects and things. It's amazing how much there is on my 'to do' list each day. I had a moment of depression last night when we returned from the night markets - after a bit of soul-searching I realised that it's because all I've done all week is work on the boat! I need to do stuff that I enjoy too - not just all chores and housework. There is always more work to do on the boat - always. I need to find ways to enjoy my life here now that we're not really cruising anymore. It will help when we make some friends here too... so I'm looking into ways of meeting like-minded Townsvillians (if they exist?)....!

Rene playing on The Strand... he's such a monkeyrager...
Well... enough procrastinating... it's time for me to attempt to sew a cover for our aft cabin hatch and then maybe get creative on my computer!

I wonder how much supply work (if any) I'll get next week when school returns for term 4?