Friday, February 25, 2011

Busy Boaties Embarking Upon A Magical Mystery Tour Among Other Things

With only 2 months to go until we plan to leave Townsville, the pace of boat work has gone into a higher gear. 

I measured, planned and designed shelves for our wet-locker. Rene cut the wood for me, then I sanded and painted it. Ren then helped out attaching the supports (he is way more thorough than me - I was happy with the screws poking out a little but he went and redid it so it was perfect). Now the wet locker fits heaps more in it! We no longer have to carry our diving gear, spare buckets, and dinghy pump in old milk-crates on deck (slowly getting damaged in the elements). In fact, a lot of the stuff we used to carry on deck can fit in the new and improved wet locker!
The Original Wet Locker (left) New and Improved Wet Locker (right)
I've been quite focused on making Anima more seaworthy - that is, thinking of ways to make her more ready for being at sea, more quickly. Having dedicated shelves in areas that were originally just big spaces that things were thrown into, means that there will be less clutter (if Rene actually followed the system!) and less to worry about before setting off on a sail. Also continuing to secure things down so that they don't fly about while sailing is something I've been working on. I sewed up this cover for our 'to do' shelves which always end up filled with bits of paper and bits and pieces. Prior to this cover, we would stuff clothes into the shelves to stop the paper etc. from flying out when the boat heeled over. I hope it works!
New cover/protector for 'to do' shelves.
Rene was inspired after spending some time with Brent (a catamaran man) who we met during Yasi while over on B finger. Brent is a diesel mechanic and he came over to give Rene some tips on caring for Anima's engine. Rene started if off by removing all of the engine coolant (a job he hasn't done before). He removed the radiator hose (which was in danger of breaking soon) and all of the old fluid. With plenty of cursing and sweating, there is now a replacement pipe that fits. Last night he put a biochemical cleaner into the tank and once we've run the engine with the cleaner, he'll replace that with the proper coolant. Phew!
Rene squishing himself into the engine to work on the radiator.
I finally completed the navigation laptop improvements. I sewed a specially designed cover for it just before Yasi came to bother us. Ollie gave me the idea of using velcro to secure it in place in the cockpit for use while sailing. So here it is! One water-proofed laptop, secured in place so it won't jump ship. I've also ordered a spare battery for it. Annoyingly when we bought the MSI Wind U160, we didn't realise that the battery it came with (when sold through Officeworks) is only the 3 cell which doesn't last the promised 8 hours. Hopefully the new 6 cell battery I've ordered will last longer so we can use the laptop for longer and be safer sailors.
Our Navigation Laptop securely in place.
Speaking of buying things online.. I unwisely leaped in without doing much research and ended up winning an ebay auction for a Globalstar satellite phone for only $157! Initially we were really excited - a satellite phone for so cheap! woooo! That elation took a spiral downwards when I researched the company and discovered that it doesn't have any coverage at all over the whole of South East Asia. Doh! I had wrongly assumed that satellite phones are global... turns out they're not! I've since embarked further into what our friend Anna so aptly coined 'the magical mystery tour' of satellite phones. Oh dear. There are 4 main players: Iridium, Globalstar, Thuraya and Inmarsat. Iridium is the only one with global coverage that is reliable (it has an astonishing 66 low earth orbit satellites and 7 in-orbit spares!). There are quite a few providers to choose from and prices seem to vary quite significantly for no obvious reason. My current tactic is to email some of the companies to ask for a direct quote and advice on best options rather than get lost in their websites (I think at the height of my research into sat phones, I had upwards of 30 tabs open in my firefox browser). Who knows what we'll end up with? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

There were about a dozen (or so) other items that I've been chasing up online, in person and over the phone. It's surprising (and annoying) how difficult some things are to come by. A simple piece of equipment (like the timing belt for our auto-pilot) can prove to be downright impossible to find. Thank goodness for the internet and mobile phones. I can't imagine trying to do this in the "good old days" when all yachties had was public phones to get obscure parts for their boats.

This week I also built a shelf for another cupboard which doesn't really have a name yet. The original owner-builders set the cupboard up as a grog-locker with dedicated wine glass holders. The second owners ripped that out and used it to store their children's clothes. We have tried storing our grog there but without any shelving / support, it would fly out when the boat heeled over starboard. Then we tried storing random stuff there which worked out OK except that it became one of those areas that things get shoved into and forgotten about.
So. I designed, cut, sanded and painted the new shelf. Then I pulled apart the cupboard - the whole front had to be removed along with all of the polished wood panels. Then I tried fitting the shelf, had to re cut it, repaint it and then after many hours of effort involving drills, screws, wood etc. I refitted the shelf and put the cupboard back together. What an effort! So here it is. Hesitantly called the 'Power cupboard' because that is mostly what needed to find a home - all the many power-related things that we use. So many chargers, cords and bits of equipment. This photo has the cupboard not yet full - that is my job for later today.
The Power Cupboard with new shelf built & installed by Cerae.
As I write this, my left arm is aching from the Typhoid vaccination I had this morning in preparation for our travels through Indonesia. This is the first of a few injections I'll need to get to be protected.

The batteries finally arrived and are sitting in their boxes awaiting the weekend so that Rene can install them when he has time. I'm looking forward to a holiday soon - all work and no play at the moment!

Ren with one of the new batteries!

Friday, February 18, 2011

As Per Request - Mango Chutney Recipes

I gave my friends and family bottles of home-made mango chutney for Christmas last year. As the gracious recipients gradually finish off their bottles, many have requested the recipe because they're hooked! So, as per (many) requests, here they are. All recipes have been slightly adapted from the sources I obtained them. I have included references/links throughout.

Some of the finished chutneys ready for eating :)
Kokub's Green Mango Chutney From Pakistan
4-6 green mangoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 or 2 cups white sugar
1teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
4 cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 cup white vinegar
5 black peppercorns, crushed

1. Place the mango into a large pot. Crush the ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle until they become a smooth paste and add to the mangoes. Stir in the sugar, salt, chilli flakes, cumin, cardamom pods and seeds, cinnamon stick, pepper and cloves. Add the vinegar, cover and leave to stand at room temperature overnight.
2. The next day, place the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken.
3. Sterilise jars by placing them in a pre-heated oven to 200degrees celcius. Place the jars on a baking tray and slide the tray in. Close the oven door and leave for 5-10 minutes. Remove the tray and handle the jars carefully with an oven mit.
4. Fill the jars immediately (while still hot) with the hot mango chutney mixture right to the tops of the jars and put the tops on. As the jars cool the seals on the lids will form.

I experimented with adding banana to this recipe in one of my chutney batches and it came out delicious! 
This recipe came from here.

Chilli Mango Chutney
1 1/4 kg firm mangoes (approx 7 medium)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup crushed hot chilli
1 medium onion (peeled and diced)
1/4 cup fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (pimento)
2 cloves garlic (grated or minced)

Peel mangoes and cut the cheeks into medium sized portions.
Place in a suitable pot, together with all other ingredients and mix well.
Cook at medium heat until mixture thickens (between 30 to 60 minutes).
When required texture is reached, spoon into hot (sterilised using the method above) jars and seal.
Ready to eat right away but will further improve with age.

Adapted from M.W & C.A Gale (2006),'Old Style Pickles & preserves - Recipes from Catha's Kitchen'.

Mango Chutney (Indian Style)
2kg mangoes (peeled and cut into large pieces)
3 firm bananas (peeled and chopped into rounds)
1 1/4 litres white vinegar
1 3/4 kg white sugar
1 onion (peeled and finely chopped)
1/4 kg dates (stones removed)
3/4 cup sultanas
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
3 heaped teaspoons salt
3 birdseye chillies - diced
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Set aside the sugar and lime juice.
Place all other ingredients into a large pot and mix thoroughly. Let stand for about 3 hours. Transfer the pot to the stove and bring contents to the boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer until tender - stirring regularly.
Stir in the sugar and lime juice and continue to simmer until the chutney thickens.
Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Ready to eat in five days but the longer it matures, the better.

Adapted from M.W & C.A Gale (2006),'Old Style Pickles & preserves - Recipes from Catha's Kitchen'.
Chilli Chutney (VERY HOT!)
125ml peanut oil
450g chillies
4 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
30g ginger, grated
3 tablespoons brown sugar
125ml white wine vinegar

1. In a saucepan, gently fry the chillies, cumin, turmeric, salt and ginger for about 15 minutes in the oil.
2. Add sugar and vinegar then cover and boil for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. Place into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Adapted from here.

I hope you have as much success as I did with my chutneys. I wish mangoes were still in season because I would be making more chutneys for sure!!!

Working Full-Time on Anima

Since Yasi, I've had renewed enthusiasm to accomplish as many boat jobs as possible. I still have had no supply teaching work so instead, I've been working full-time on improving Anima. This has been aided because our lovely friends from Sula Sula have flown south and have left us their car, Daisy, to look after and make use of while they're away. Daisy has allowed me to zip off to buy various bits and pieces so that I can finish off jobs more quickly and easily. No more walking in the sweltering heat or waiting around for hours to catch an over-priced bus!

So, in no particular order, the jobs that I have completed over the last week are listed below:

The mosquito screens for our small portholes are finally complete (these will be our protection against malaria in SE Asia). It was a long process of measuring, having the plastic cut to size in Brisbane, drilling holes, cutting and bolting it all together. I made seven of these beauties - one for each of our portholes.
My new mozzie screen above one of the originals.
All of the cushions in our saloon are now secured in place. I sewed velcro strips to the backs of the beautiful covers that our gorgeous friend Lizzy made for us. Then I glued and screwed the hook side of the velcro to the wood backing. Now when we're sailing, the cushions won't fly about - instead, they'll stay firmly in place. 

Me drilling the velcro into place.
The life U-rings have been temporarily fixed up. They were quite damaged from years in the sun and so we have sikaflexed some replacement rip-stop over the worst areas. We plan to have proper covers made while travelling in Asia, so the messy black smears will not be there forever. I also sewed up two small rip-stop bags to hold the extra bits (whistle and sea anchor) that go with the rings.  

One of the life rings with its bandaid fix and new bag.
I spent about 5 days sorting through all of our nautical charts. We had a lot - probably about 60 or so kilograms consisting of some given to us, some originals that the boat came with and some borrowed from Rene's parents. There were too many really - we had triplicates of some! Most are pretty old - almost all of them were published in the 70s. The oldest one was printed in 1901!!! I used my teaching organisation skills and have catalogued, ordered and sorted the best of them into giant-size folders. We need to obtain more charts for travelling through SE Asia but I'm really happy with how organised the charts are now!
Ordered chaos - every surface was covered in charts while I was working.
The finished product - organised chart folder (Rene was squashed underneath it while he worked).
I've also been making some of the documents that will help us to travel through SE Asia with ease. Thanks to Jan and Nick from Yawarra 2 for alerting us to these requirements! I've made up a crewlist document and have just finished the boatstamp (pictured) which now has to be made up into a stamp for official documents.
So, it has been a busy week! Only two months now until we leave for waters further north. Hopefully our new boat batteries will arrive today so that we can install them this weekend. If not, there's still plenty to keep me busy!

I'm feeling great! I just did a week-long Mysore Ashtanga Yoga intensive. I'm so grateful for finding yoga and for having time to make it a part of my life. We had a tricky decision to make this week when Rene was offered a job working 3 months in Toronto from August, then 3 months in London. Despite the lure of travel in Europe, we are happy with our decision to stick with our original plan of cruising this year. It is going to be amazing!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Cyclone Yasi Has Changed Me By Shaking Me To My Core

If you had to choose from your belongings what would you keep and what could you do without? What would you choose? It is a commonly asked question and people usually reply with photo albums, important documents and jewellery. I had a whole day to choose what to take with me before Cyclone Yasi hit. All evidence was pointing towards us losing our home and everything in it and so I had to decide what I would take with me because that would be all I had. I took some books, my cameras, external hard drives, important documents, toiletries, clothes, tools and food. 

Carting all of these belongings to and from the boat had me thinking about how I have too much stuff. I've realised what little use most of my possessions are. I no longer need to hold onto all of them. I made snap decisions about which things I really needed during that one day of packing. I don't need so much stuff. For so long the thought of 'Oh, but I might use it one day' has hindered me. Not anymore. 

I've spent the last week unpacking. It has taken me so long because as I unpacked, I de-cluttered my life - big time. I tried to be as ruthless as possible. If I'd left an item behind on the boat during the evacuation, then it meant that I didn't really need it. I took bags of books and things to the laundry room here in the marina. I filled garbage bags with clothes which are waiting to go to the Salvo's or Lifeline. I threw away half of the stuff from my bathroom cupboard. I sent a few things home to family and friends. I went through files and chucked out so much paperwork into the recycling bins that I've reduced our important documents down to one file, not two. I was going to chuck out most of my stationary too until I remembered that it is a suggested trading item/gift to take to Indonesia. So I've saved the excess stationary and art supplies to give away while we're travelling.
Just some of the stuff I've uncluttered from my life.
Stuff isn't important. Life is important. People are far more important than things. I have always tried to communicate and connect with others and want to do this more and more. This blog is a way of sharing and I want to share my life with as many lovely people in as many ways as I can.
Our Anima - when we first returned to her post Yasi :)
I'm not so afraid any more. Cyclone Yasi shook me to my core. For the first time ever, I was really concerned about losing my life (I'm sure I've come close before but not realised it). I had a few days of knowing that I could die. An experience I don't wish to repeat. There were no flights left out of Townsville and I wasn't in a position to just drive south like so many others were doing. I had to stay. I remember having a pep talk to myself in the mirror at one point, just a few hours before Yasi really hit. I told myself that I was going to survive. I discovered (like so many do when placed in life-death situations) that I was going to put everything I had into living. Of course, in hindsight, I wasn't really in that much danger. The cyclone hit us at a category 3 rating and the house we sheltered in was very safe. But at the time, all of the warnings about the cyclone were so scary and persistent. They were telling us that 'many lives would be lost' and that it was 'extremely life threatening'. I really was afraid for my life for a while.
But back to my point. I'm not so fearful anymore of silly things like noises in the night, the dark, confrontations, strangers, jellyfish, being alone, getting sick, having children, sailing etc. etc. etc... The only thing that still frightens me is cyclones. For the last few days, I've checked BOM for the latest cyclone watch. Each time I see this image, I let out a massive sigh and really relax.

I love seeing this on
I also realised that I do still want to be artistic. I want to make films and images. I filmed as much of the process (before, during and after Cyclone Yasi) as I could and loved it. I used to love making films but when I taught film to highschool students, it became work and work became stress. All of my creative energy was poured into my students and I had no time or ideas for myself. Yasi has reminded me of one of my passions. I need to give myself permission to take time to pursue my creativity. The time is now - not in the future. Live the life I want NOW, not after I've done everything on my 'to do' list.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Miraculous Escape

As our Premier, Anna Bligh has said, 'we dodged a bullet'. But, 4 days after Yasi hit the coast just north of Townsville, I feel as though the bullet came so close that I'm bruised and battered. We evacuated from Anima the night before Yasi was due to hit. All our family phoned me and were so worried that they made me promise to leave the boat with plenty of time to spare. We moved into our family friend, Carden's house in a suburb about 15 minutes drive away. We had a few car loads of our most essential belongings with us and had said goodbye to Anima. We worked so hard at getting ready and the build up to the cyclone was so intense that I barely ate or slept for days (note to self, this is not an ideal way to end up with a flat stomach!).

On the morning of Yasi (Yasi struck at around 11pm that night), I looked on the latest BOM cyclone map and saw with horror that she had been upgraded to a category 5 - the highest rating. Suddenly I wasn't just afraid for our boat, I was worried about our lives. We prepared Carden's house as best we could - taping up all of the windows, getting rid of everything from her yard, filling water containers, securing windows and doors. Then, we took what now became the essential belongings (a few bags and food) across to the house next door which was built much stronger. Then, we waited. As the storm raged outside, we felt increasingly secure in our shelter. It was actually so sheltered that we couldn't hear the 50metre tall Eucalypt trees crashing down outside. Sleep was fitful as I got up every hour to look outside, check BOM on my phone and try to film the progress. Rene slept like a log because he was extremely tired from moving all our junk.

*The morning after*

We got up at first light and went outside to the verandah. The flood water was 1 metre from us, many trees were down, green ants were everywhere (having been flung from their usual homes up in the trees!), leaves were everywhere and the wind was still howling. Within an hour we had a phone call from one of our fellow marina friends - they had stayed within walking distance to the marina and were down there - they could see that our boats were all OK!!!! I didn't believe them at first, but then we got another two calls, all from yachties telling us the good news! WOW. 
We woke to this outside the morning after cyclone Yasi - it didn't have water in it the day before.
All of the signs outside where we sheltered were bent up.
The storm surge was less than the predicted amount here in Townsville. Our friend Andy worked out that if the cyclone had travelled further south for another 20 minutes, our marina would have ended up like the one at Cardwell. We got very very lucky. It was very very close.

The marina at Cardwell just north of here. All of the boats were thrown onto the foreshore.
It was quite a few hours before we could get down to the marina ourselves. We had to help Carden clean up her yard first and the wind was still too strong to drive safely. Carden's place did OK, she'd lost the roof over her skylight, the TV aerial was ripped off (it was hanging just 5cm above her car!), most of her trees were damaged and her pool was now green with leaves. The power was (and still is) out, and so the drive down to the marina was made more difficult because none of the traffic lights were working! The marina only sustained minor damage. Some of the pontoons are broken, some of the pile-ons are missing their caps and one finger came close to breaking away from the land. A few boats had also copped a bit of damage - the vast majority of these being boats that hadn't been adequately prepared by their owners. A small army of yachties braved the gale force winds in the early morning to tie up some of the boats that were only holding on with one rope (all the others having broken). We had one rope that had broken due to the violence of the wind. But, because we'd used 20 ropes to tie ourselves in, Anima was still very secure in her pen. Someone's broken solar panel was on the pontoon directly beside us, as was all sorts of other junk and lots of leaves from the park. Miraculously, our boat is still afloat!!!
Rene helps Carden drag a broken branch from her yard. He's pulling it with her car!

Anima still alive! Just below her name is a box jellyfish - my first sighting.
The clean-up post cyclone Yasi has been difficult. I'm exhausted beyond the limit of what I've ever felt. I have my appetite back but I'm still not sleeping properly. I'm no longer afraid of all of the things I used to be. I'm now only afraid of cyclones. I don't know how I will cope if another one threatens us. I've just lost a week of my life to Yasi - preparing for her, worrying about her and then cleaning up after her. There is still so much work to do on Anima, Townsville looks very different and requires a lot more work and I'm struggling to get much done. Cyclone season goes for another 3 months. I never want to live in a cyclone-prone area again. Others have not been nearly as lucky as us. I feel so sad for all of the boats and their owners who were up in the Cardwell marina. I feel so sorry for everyone who has had their house damaged or ruined. Miraculously, no lives were lost! I also feel for our parents and friends who had a sleepless night during Yasi. The media had hyped the cyclone up so much that everyone was in a bit of a frenzy. Thank you so much to the multitude of messages, texts and phone calls that we received throughout this ordeal. It made a big difference to have everyone's love pouring out towards us.

We were in the hands of fate and have been thrown another chance. For a few days leading up to and during cyclone Yasi, I'd had to say goodbye to my home and dreams. Now that my home is still afloat, I can go back to our original dream: sailing through South East Asia with Rene. Luck or fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it, has allowed us to continue and so I'm now more sure than ever that I want to do this. Sure, sailing is hard work; it's difficult and being on the water doesn't come naturally to me. But, I will try not to complain or be afraid so much when we set off again in April. We've survived the biggest cyclone this area has seen in hundreds of years. I've been through a massive journey and have come through the other side more determined than ever.

This is the moment when I realised that we'd survived Yasi.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sheltering From Cyclone Yasi

As I write this, the wind is whipping through the trees in the park next door. I'm conscious of the fact that the power could cut out any second... so if this post is incomplete, that is why!

We are sheltering in a very strong house - built from besa brick and double bolted roof. I've set up a mattress in a room that is central to the house - no windows, protected from every side. At this stage, I'm confident that we'll live through to see tomorrow. I'm not so confindent about our beloved home, Anima.

We tied up our Ani with at least 20 ropes. Rene spent an entire day tweaking them. He reinforced all the ropes that are likely to chafe with fire hydrant hosing too. But there's nothing we can do about the storm surge. If this cyclone creates the storm surge they're predicting, the whole marina will lift from the pile-ons. Chaos will reign. There's no telling what the 100 odd boats will do as they come loose from their formerly secure home.

Cyclone Yasi is the biggest this country has seen in hundreds of years. This morning, it was increased to be a category 5 - the worst and most destructive of all storms. When this whole cyclone saga first started about a week ago, I was devastated about the loss we would experience. A boat is more than a boat. It embodies dreams, life, potential, love. Anima was our everything. Rene has been my rock though - as well as some wonderfully optimistic and generous yachties that I've met along our journey so far. We hauled off 2 car loads of our belongings from the boat and have taken them to south Townsville - to a family friend's house and now, some of them are with us in this prayer house.
Our beloved Anima all tied up in 'B' Finger.

The wind is really picking up now. It sounds bad. The trees are cracking and breaking. The radio is having trouble picking up a signal. I'm still ok.

I've now come to terms with potentially losing it all. Losing our home and dream. This cyclone is so big that it is threatening lives across an area so large that it is almost unfathomable. 290 kilometres per hour winds are coming our way in the next 3 hours.

You see, I've realised that what is most important is our lives. I just want to live through this. I bloody well plan on living through this. Possessions are not as important as our lives. Wish us luck! This is going to be a long night.

This is the current cyclone prediction for Yasi. We're starting to feel it now.