Saturday, July 23, 2011

Insights As We Leave Australia

As we motor-sail out of Darwin Harbour, towards Indonesia, I had this insight about the meaning of life...

The meaning of life is to actually try your very best to LIVE! Take risks, face fears, love, laugh, cry and experience all that is, in this amazing ride.

Lots of love to all our friends and family. xxx

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Storm Before The Quiet

We are super super super busy! It's hard to believe that we will be ready by 11am tomorrow. The last few days have passed in a blur of working, spending and preparing. We're all super tired and a bit stressed too. Penny, our crew member arrived and has settled in well. She's already tidied up our plastic cupboard (of doom!). Today we cleared customs and got our cruising permit (CAIT). Today I tried to finish the sock for our Spinnaker but ran out of time. Rene tried to set up our AIS but discovered the USB to Serial port is not compatible with Windows 7. 

So much still to do.... 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Boat Progress In Darwin

It's not all fun and relaxation here in Darwin. We've been working really hard on improving Anima and preparing her for the coming voyage. 

After years of lugging around odd pieces of wood, bits of pipe and all sorts of curious spares we'll probably never need, we decided it was time to get rid of it all. A fellow yachtie had told Rene that if we wanted Anima to sail better, we could try reducing the weight in the forepeak. We've done this so well that her waterline sits well above the water now at the bow. The forepeak is so clean that Chihiro could sleep there and our crew member, Penny will do the same in Indonesia. Previously, the forward berth was so covered in crap that you wouldn't have even known there was a bed there at all!

I sorted through the chaos of paper charts we were given, into the districts we plan to visit in Indonesia. It was quite a time-consuming task, but well worth it as doing this reaffirmed our decision to take the Saumlaki route through Indo rather than heading to Kupang with most of the other boats in the rally. More on this later. 
Indonesia consists of 17 508 islands separated into general areas / districts.  
Rene installed the wind instrument we were given after rescuing Artemis from the reef in the Wessels. The wiring turned out to be quite epic as he had to remove all the ceiling boards and drill holes through the steel. The display is a little temperamental but we're happy. It has already changed out perception on wind strength. 10 knots of wind is much stronger than I'd ever realised and our wind generator works in lower winds than we'd thought. 
Rene adjusting the wiring for our new wind instrument!
I set myself the task of renovating our floor while here in Darwin. The blue carpet Ani has had for the past 29 years was really past its use-by date (and was giving me hayfever from the impregnated dust that our 12 volt vacuum can't suck up). Boats we've visited which I admired all have wooden floors. I decided to do my best to create a wood-look with our limited funds and time – so I opted for lino. At Bunnings, I was lucky enough to score the end of the roll (3.5 metres) for the price of 1 metre of lino. The difficulty was managing the big thing!! It's quite challenging to cut pieces exactly to size on a boat where there are limited flat surfaces. Each floor board (in our case, floor boards are all manner of shapes and sizes to fit the storage areas which lie underneath) needed to be measured and cut exactly to size before I glued the lino down with contact adhesive. After a few stuff-ups, I managed to get it all stuck down with (mostly) success and we think it's a vast improvement! The light colour of the wood really picks up the light and makes the cabin much airier or something... I'm looking forward to doing yoga on my new floor asap! 
The floor renovation in progress. Goodbye horrible blue carpet that reminds me of Primary School. 

Rene ordered a bunch of new equipment online from WestMarine (marine store in America which sells boaty stuff cheaper than Australia) and when it arrived, he had the task of installing it all. The first hurdle was the bus – the driver wouldn't let Rene on with the long VHF aerial he'd collected from the Post Office. He had to walk home (about an hour) while I caught the bus (which funnily enough, became a travelling amateur opera as some of the local characters sang to a young baby in loud, out of tune falsetto Portugese/East Timorese!). Rene spent days rewiring Anima so that our AIS (Automatic Identification System) is set up and working. We get a buzz to see our boat name there amongst all of the other boats in our chart plotter (synchronized with the AIS). We're slowly but surely making Anima into the boat we want her to be. There's so much more we could do to improve her but we'll have to wait for $$.
Speaking of money, we had to refuel before leaving. I won't go into the boring details of refuelling because it bores me to remember that day of waiting around while everyone else got fuel but us. In the end, we have a total of 320 litres of diesel. With past Sail Indonesia Rally participants telling us that it should in fact be called 'Motor Indonesia', we will no doubt use this and more in the next few months. If only it was more affordable. 
Today I finished sewing a waterproof bag to house our generator so it can be stored out on deck rather than inside (where it takes up too much room and stinks of petrol). So many more jobs on our 'To Do' list before we leave in just 4 days!

Jobs jobs jobs, work work work. But it's all so worth it! Not long till we set sail now!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chihiro's Visit

Our sister-in-law, Chihiro, was able to visit us during her holidays. She escaped the cold weather in Brisbane and relaxed here in Darwin with us. Having a guest was a great opportunity to be tourists ourselves! So, we (for the most part) put aside the never-ending list of boat jobs and took time out. 
Chihiro helps Rene drag the dinghy up Fannie Bay beach.
We checked out the wharf precinct and watched the local teenagers surf man-made waves in an overcrowded wave pool. It looked fun but we opted for the free salt-water pool. Chihiro had fun splashing about as she tried to emulate Rene's seal-like water antics. I had fun until I spotted a jellyfish and happened to mention my sighting to the life-guard in passing. He changed instantly from relaxed Darwin dude to alert action man! I had thought we were safe from the deadly jellies during winter here but apparently not so!
Coffee and cake in the back of the 4WD
We took advantage of the borrowed 4WD, and drove out to the nearest National Park, Litchfield (2 hours away at speeds of up to 130 kilometres an hour). I relished in being able to drive at such speeds after our snail-pace sail to Darwin. It was a thrill to drive 100 times faster than Anima!! The park was great. We saw giant termite mounds in their millions. They build really tall mounds up here to capture the heat of the sun and to escape the flood-waters of summer. There are so many termites in Darwin that the electricity poles are built of steel (at least, that's my theory! Rene thinks it's for the cyclones). 
aaaaah! Waterfall! So nice!!!
Florence Falls crowds
Tolmer Falls
We swam at the gorgeous Florence Falls in crystal-clear cool water populated by large fresh-water fish and bus loads of tourists. I enjoyed seeing decent-sized cliffs – Northern Territory has been very flat for the most part. We tried to swim at the other natural pools but they were all closed for either cultural or crocodile reasons. We enjoyed a delicious cake that Chihiro (who is a deadly chef) brought with her and on the way home we took the unsealed road to get some 4 Wheel Driving in. It wasn't very rough (two normal cars overtook us!) but we had fun thinking it was really epic and Chihiro wants a 4WD now. 
Chihiro and Sweetheart, the giant crocodile!!
We hung out in town, checked out the local museum and sunset markets at Mindil Beach. The museum here is pretty small – the biggest attraction is 'Sweetheart', the massive 5.1 metre crocodile which terrorised the local area 30 years ago. The markets are huge up here. The crowds of locals and tourists all wanting a tasty bite at one of the many various food stalls (plenty of Asian foods are available here). We pigged out on fresh fruit smoothies, Indian and Sri Lankan foods and watched amazing fire twirling performers. 
Smoothies at Mindil Markets :)
Fire twirling extravaganza!
On Chihiro's final day here, her friend Jodie happened to fly in from Singapore for the day en route to Brisbane. We collected her from the airport and had a relaxing day drinking, chatting and eating on Anima. Rene set up our new hammock using the spinnaker pole so that the hammock swings out over the water at a right angle to Anima. Kind of exhilarating relaxation! 
Rene happy in his new hammock.
We look forward to catching up with Jodie in Singapore in a few months. I'm hoping she will have sourced out an affordable wine seller as my "cellar" will be at desperate levels by then! Synchronicity in action again, Chihiro was able to share Jodie's hotel room back at the airport for her early flight home. We enjoyed having Chihiro stay and look forward to seeing her (and any other friends/family) again somewhere else along our journey. 
Chihiro's Tree Pose :)

Synchronicity and Fireworks in Darwin

We've been in Darwin for a couple of weeks now and it has passed by in a blur of boat work, sight-seeing, shopping and socialising. The Northern Territory is a pretty unique place. I think it's the most different to all other areas of Australia we've visited. A nice segue into Asia. The seasons here are extreme - the bus timetable even has a disclaimer that the times may be affected by the weather! Right now is the best season to visit - the dry. It doesn't rain and every day the temperature reaches up to 32 degrees. Nice. Every afternoon we are blessed with a picturesque sunset that belongs on a postcard. We are so used to seeing such amazing sunsets every day that it was a shock when we went to the local night markets at Mindil Beach. Hundreds of people were gathering on the sand and we wandered down to see what all the fuss was about.. Rene thought that maybe there was someone famous about to perform. Instead, everyone was there just to witness (and photograph) the long, golden sunset that Darwin is famous for and which we take for granted. 
Mindil Beach sunset
Yacht club sunset. Anima is anchored in this bay.

This place is very relaxed. Much more so than the over-regulated Queensland we're used to. Apparently, it is legal for locals to drink as much as they want while out on the water, to grow marijuana and (once a year) buy and set off fireworks!! We witnessed the spectacle of Northern Territory Day which is celebrated by everyone setting off fireworks from about 4pm (why some people set off fireworks in the day time eludes me) until well after midnight. Anchored in Fannie Bay, we had the best view of these crazy fireworks – the most impressive of which were the official ones which were absolutely MASSIVE. The biggest we've ever seen.
All-night fireworks to celebrate Northern Territory Day!!

Dressing up in Darwin means putting on your best pair of thongs and boardies. The busses here are $2 and for the most part, the locals are friendly. The tides here are big – up to 7 metres during Spring tides (twice a month when the moon is either full or new). These big tides make for some long hauls up and down the beach with our dinghy.
We met up with our friends Brent and Jean-Anne from the catamaran Eyelandtime (who we bonded with during and after cyclone Yasi earlier this year in Townsville). They live here and kindly lent us on of their cars (a zippy 4WD!!) for a week. This was fantastic! Being able to drive around really opens up a city and its surrounds in a way that public transport can't. Using the car, we were able to buy all the parts, spares and food that we needed. We also were able to show our sister-in-law, Chihiro, a good time while she visited. More on that later. 
Offloading our shopping from the 4WD to the dinghy.
We've noticed that while travelling, synchronicity is much more prevalent. I don't know why though we have some theories. An example of such synchronicity is this: on our way back to Ani one evening, Rene voiced his desire to meet other young cruisers like ourselves (the majority of yachties these days are 50++ in age). In particular, Rene wished to meet young cruisers who were into music, jamming and computers. The very next day while I was trying out the local yoga studio (Iyengar yoga - more on that below), Rene waited for me at the yacht club with his laptop. Two other guys were also at the club with their laptops and they got chatting. Ben and Hannes from Germany are living on board their 34 foot sloop, Marianne and were travelling musicians! We all became friends and Rene in particular enjoyed their company as he got to jam, talk music, boats and all sorts of crazy ideas with people who shared similar passions. Our new German friends sadly set out for Bali only 2 weeks after we met. We hope to meet them again but doubt we'll catch up to them by sea as they're sailing all the way home during the next 18 months. 
German muso's preparing to set sail.
Another example of synchronicity (or maybe even the "law of attraction") is that I longingly looked at the pictures of kayaks that I have stuck on the wall yesterday morning. I thought to myself that I really did wish for a kayak but that I couldn't afford to buy one just yet. Two hours later, we were returning from the local markets and right next to our dinghy on the ramp was an inflatable kayak with a sign saying 'Free To A Good Home'. Wow. These two examples are the most blog-worthy but there are many further examples of this occurring – things we talk or think about happening within hours of us having spoken or thought it. Thank you universe for listening to us!

Rene discovered a Wing Chun club that was very welcoming of travelling students and shares a similar lineage to his club in Brisbane. He welcomed the opportunity to link arms with others who had a righteous Wing Chun attitude and good technique. It has provided him with inspiration to be more relaxed and fluid. There is no Ashtanga Yoga studio here so I tried out the only alternative - Iyengar Yoga. I decided pretty quickly that it in't for me – it's far too slow and reliant upon props. I miss my teacher, Allison, and the lovely studio and people in Townsville. Strange that I can feel homesick for a place we only lived in for 6 months! I'm hoping to find some quality teachers and schools of Ashtanga in Bali to reinvigorate my practice. 

We have had the last of our inoculations here (this time Cholera in the form of a drink) and have stocked up on anti-malaria meds and so many other medicines. 

We're ready!
BUSTED!!! Pop-corn addict in the act!! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anima Under Sail

Thank you to the lovely Henma from Easy Rider for taking these pics of Anima sailing up the Queensland Coast early last month. It's nice to see our home from a different perspective. :)