Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Journal Entry – May 26th – 30th, 2007 Week One in OZ

Author: Pam

This journal entry represents the epitome of hitting the ground running and that is just what we did once our feet hit the ground after sixteen days at sea. After our glorious first full night’s sleep in more than two weeks, we crawled out of bed and headed out to meet Phil from Humanware to attend the Association of Blind Citizens of New South Wale’s Technology Expo. The Expo featured adaptive technology for people who are blind produced or sold by the four vendors in the Sydney area. It was held in the building owned by the Association of Blind Citizens of NSW, a neat old house with a beeper and tactile tiles at the gate. Our participation was informal, we chatted with many of the people who came through the door, including two teachers of the visually impaired. We were still pretty tired, but hopefully we were at least somewhat coherent. We went to dinner again at the Cruising Yacht Club, Scott of course wanted half of the items on the menu. It usually takes him a few days to reacclimate to the idea that he will get his next meal and it will not be out of a can.

On Sunday Phil and his partner Jan came over to Starship laden with a lovely picnic lunch. It was a very relaxing afternoon and we probably bored them with all of our Tasman yarns. At 5:00 David and Donna Marshall arrived to take us to their house for the promised home cooked meal. We had met them on Friday evening and within moments of meeting Donna she had extended a gracious invitation to dinner at their home. Bernie and Kate Dixon were also guests and we all shared a meal of the best roasted vegetables and pork I have ever had. It was a delightful evening full of many stories and much laughter. It was decided before heading back to the boat that Scott would go sailing with the Tuesday Men’s Sailing Club and I would spend the day with Donna, their grandson and our pile of laundry.

Monday we finally walked further than the Cruising Yacht Club and walked up to the Edgecliff Shopping Center and poked around in the grocery stores, our first reconnaissance for provisioning. We bought a weekly train pass and headed out to the internet café, with a stop at the golden arches along the way. We only had an hour to check email and then we headed back to the boat to meet our new friend Nick Reward for dinner. We had met Nick a few days before leaving NZ as he and David on “Ilyana” were preparing to leave on the rally to Tonga. Nick picked us up and we headed to King’s Cross, a neighborhood in Sydney near by the boat and notoriously known as the “red light” district. Like the Tenderloin in San Francisco you could say it is colorful, but there are also some very nice restaurants that have taken up residency. After buying a bottle of wine at a Bottle Shop (many of the Sydney restaurants are BYO) he suggested Italian. We sat down and he began to read the menu and once he had read Bratwurst and Schnitzel it became clear we had ended up at a German restaurant. We were all still fine with the cuisine choice and had a very nice dinner sharing stories about the Tasman and their passage to Tonga.

So, Tuesday came and with two bags of laundry David picked me up and took me over to their house for the day. And the day it took to do all of the laundry, in between playing with Taj, the youngest Australian I have met so far. Scott’s day on the other hand was spent aboard “Free Spirit” David and Donna’s 35’ wooden (timber) boat celebrating the 300th outing of the Tuesday Club. There are around ten members and we have been told the youngest is 70. They showed Scott a wonderful day on Sydney Harbour and he was treated to a trip to the Sydney Fish Market for prawns, fish and chips and he even ate two oysters. The later being unprecedented. Donna, Taj and I met them at the Cruising Yacht Club for a libation and were regaled with the enthusiasm of the fun they had, but no details were shared, because these Tuesday sails are all about “secret men’s business.” Comfy under the heat lamp, Scott and I decided to stay at the CYCA again for dinner.

Wednesday morning we headed up to Cole’s and Audi’s the supermarkets in the Edgecliff center and finally bought some groceries, I was absolutely craving a salad. We got back in time to quickly eat some lunch before we piled into “Intrepid” one of Sailability’s racing boats and headed out on the Harbour with Bob, Bill, Steve, Don and Malcolm for my first race. The winds were very light and variable making certain legs of the course difficult. Unfortunately, the team did not do as well as their standing record of nothing less than second, it was agreed it was probably due to the Americans on board. The members of Sailability have been wonderful hosts and a really nice group of people to meet and spend time with.

Thursday morning we headed up to Edgecliff again to the Westpac bank to finally pay our last bill in New Zealand. We did a couple of other errands and then ran back to the boat to meet Ivan, the mechanic who was coming by to finally bleed the engine. He arrived at noon and spent an hour and a half attempting to get the engine started. He finally decided the starter battery needed to recharge over night and it would be best if he came back the next morning with a large wrench to manually turn the crankshaft, the engine was not turning over on its own. After he left we were feeling a bit discouraged, we were hoping the problem only needed the expertise of a mechanic and that Scott didn’t know the finer details of bleeding air out of the fuel system. After several attempts to start the engine, including Ivan’s idea of cross feeding both the house and the starter battery, the voltage on the house batteries spiked to 19.65, which is dangerously high. Ivan did not know why this was happening, said we needed an electrician and then left saying he would be back at 8:30 the next morning. Yikes! We walked down the street, ended up in a power boat sales office and inquired about an electrician. The guys working there were very nice, they referred us to Craig and let us use the phone to call him. It turned out he was actually four boats away from Starship and said he would come over when he finished the job he was working on. He was there by 4:30 and fairly quickly determined the master battery fuse had blown. We paid Craig on the spot and found out we are not in Kansas anymore (or New Zealand). Feeling a bit discouraged we finally cooked our first meal on Starship in Sydney, BBQ chicken and salad. We headed out after dinner to spend some time at the Internet Café across town and came home at 11:45 totally exhausted. What a week!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Journal Entry – May 25, 2007 Sydney the Land of Helicopters and Hospitality

Author: Scott

We awoke this morning after our big two hours of sleep on the Customs buoy (or so we thought). We scurried around getting the boat organized and ready to be inspected by the officials. They had warned us to be ready by 07:00 but they actually knocked on our boat closer to 08:00, giving us a little extra time to get the sleep out of our eyes, some coffee injected, and the boat in order.

When they came to the boat there were two gentlemen who came aboard, one was from Customs and the other from the Quarantine and Agriculture office. They took us through the same procedure we have come to expect from other countries and though they asked almost identical questions they each needed to directly ask us their questions personally. Overall the process was much less painful than we had been warned to expect. Australia has the reputation of being one of the strictest countries to clear into and our experience certainly did not live up to this reputation. Once we had answered every question twice, they were satisfied and prepared to board their inflatable boat. We then asked if we could stay on their buoy until we were met by Sailability at 10:30 and they said sure as we were not actually tied onto their buoy. Apparently in the darkness the Harbor Police deposited on to some random buoy accidentally. Well, no one had said anything so far so we just waited on our pirated buoy for Sailability to arrive.

Around 10:15 Sailability did show up in a small sailboat with three people onboard. Stephen Churm the Commodore of Sailability Rushcutters Bay introduced us to his crewmembers Carol and Bill. The preliminary plan was to take the boat over to Rushcutters Bay to meet the media before 13:00, this would give us plenty of time to slink in under tow, however, everything was about to change. As we were getting everything organized for our departure Stephen’s phone rang for the first of many times. Apparently he was called from Georgia who was on the dock representing Vision Australia and not only was the media streaming in but Channel 9 had a helicopter en route and they wanted to shoot footage of us sailing into Sydney Harbour. There would definitely be no slinking in before the media arrived and although we had no engine, we could sail, and sail we must. So, our revised plan was to sail off the mooring ball and sail out to the Sydney Heads and then sail down the harbor to Rushcutters Bay where the boat would be berthed and the media was waiting. The crew from Sailability would sail in their 26’ boat along side us and provide an escort. Our plan was reasonably sound except there was not sufficient wind in Watson’s Bay to make way. Once we released the mooring ball we drifted slowly towards the other moored boats. Although we were never dangerously close to a collision we were starting to get a little frantic, but just then an inflatable dinghy zoomed up and the single crew onboard said he could give us a push out into the harbor. There were a number of attempts with varying degrees of success, but our new friend eventually got us out into open water and we were able to generate enough momentum with a 7 knot breeze to slowly make way towards the Sydney Heads. As quickly as he appeared, our friend in the dinghy was gone. Who was that masked man?

The media said they were sending a helicopter and they certainly did. As we reached the Heads a helicopter came hovering overhead. Pam was seated up front on the bow seat and I stayed back in the cockpit steering the boat and making sail changes. The Sailability boat was buzzing around us and they probably looked like the excited hare urging the big lumbering tortoise on, but our sails were full and Starship looked good for the television cameras. When we reached the perfect position for the helicopter and they could frame a shot of us with the Sydney skyline on our beam, they hovered extra low and then roared off towards the city.

Once the helicopter departed we discussed our options with the Sailability folks and they suggested giving us a tow so we could get back to meet the media on the dock. The idea of getting towed in didn’t exactly thrill us, but we knew that we had to get to Rushcutters Bay, so we worked out a tow rope and the little Sailability boat pulled Starship with the determination of a mouse pulling an elephant on roller skates. Fortunately, shortly after getting under way our friends on the Police Boat showed up and took over from the overworked mouse boat, and before we knew it, we were rocketing to Rushcutters Bay at 7.5 knots.

Our arrival at Rushcutters Bay is a memory that will always stand out when I reflect on our voyage. As we came alongside the dock there was a lot, and I mean a lot of media people standing there with cameras and microphones in hand. I was on the bow as the Police Boat brought us along the dock and I asked if one of the media people could catch our line, and wouldn’t you know it, there was not a single volunteer in the crowd. I just stood there with rope in hand as we almost passed the dock completely, but just as I was thinking this would be the shorted interview of the century, one of the media people realized the same thing and grabbed for the line. We got tied up in a jiffy and pandemonium broke loose at Rushcutters Bay. There were cameras and microphones everywhere catching every line we tied and every word we uttered. Good thing I didn’t let loose a few of my more salty sailing terms. When I looked up there were members of the media all over the boat, they were everywhere. Once we had the boat tied fast an impromptu press conference took place and as Pam and I stood there with genuine deer in the headlights stares and sleep deprivation hangovers, and the press let fly with all kinds of questions. The next hour was an absolute blur. We answered questions, met the group from Vision Australia and Sailability and tried to keep up with the enormous amount of information overload coming our way. Everyone was wonderful, supportive, and enthusiastic and Pam and I were completely dazed. At some point the information was all gathered and the media disappeared to file their stories. Stephen Churm of Sailability helped us to maneuver the boat into her new temporary home and Pam and I had a moment together to shake off the cobwebs and catch our breath.

Ben Felten our original contact with Sailability came down to the dock and invited us for a drink at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia or CYCA and before we knew it we were seated at the CYCA with a cold drink and a steaming bowl of the most glorious chips (fries) in front of us. John who we also met at the dock (and gave Pam a beautiful bouquet of flowers) soon joined us. We all sat there chatting as though we had known each other for years. Ben’s brother eventually also joined us and stayed for a drink. When everyone finally had to take off, Pam and I ambled over to the CYCA restaurant for a delicious meal and we tried to reconstruct the pieces that made up our absolutely whirlwind day.

Now you are probably thinking that with a warm meal under our belts and hardly any sleep that we headed straight back to the boat to become blissfully unconscious, but no no not - not for these sailors. You see while we were still on the dock we were invited by Bill another member of Sailability to stop in at the RANSA (Royal Australian Naval Sailing Association) winter race party. Not wanting to be rude we decided we would stop in for just a minute. A minute turned into hours of delightful warm introductions and we were stunned by everyone’s kind wishes, enthusiasm and overall hospitality. There were people sharing useful information about the area, offers to use the RANSA club house for showers, and probably most memorably our first interaction with our soon to be friends David and Donna. I was standing in mid conversation and this woman walked up to me and said in a matter of fact tone with a big smile: “You and Pam will be having dinner at our place on Sunday” and this was my introduction to Donna Marshall. I later learned that Donna and Pam had already worked out the details but in the moment I just accepted Donna’s declaration with the rest of the conversations swirling around in my brain. We did finally find a time to rest our weary heads though the Sydney wheels were in motion and the wonderful wild ride was just beginning…

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Journal Entry - May 23 - 25, 2007 Diesel Roulette (a.k.a. Spaghetti Incident) and our Sydney Landfall

Author: Scott

I am sure glad we sailed over 200 miles to the north to ensure that we would not miss Sydney with winds pushing us down South. We had fluky winds working against us most of the way north, not to be met by the northerlies, but by their ugly counterpart the south westerlies. Yep, you are reading this correctly, we were routed by our weather routing service to sail north against the prevailing wind, just to meet new wind on our nose for the remainder of the journey. No disrespect intended to the weather router, we do understand that the weather is unpredictable, but we may have gotten luckier referencing the Ouija Board, or giving a monkey some chalk and a nautical chart. Okay, maybe that is just a teensy bit sarcastic on my part, but we did just go 400 miles out of our way, with no one to blame but mother nature. In the end we did find the experience of using a weather router positive because we had more advance information on the gale we encountered than we may have researched ourselves. Our advice to other cruisers is to use all the weather tools available and sometimes that includes paying for weather routing.

There really is nothing significant about May 23 other than the frustrating sailing conditions and fighting the wind on our nose. We spent the day willing the wind to clock to the west and probably because we did not sacrifice a virgin to the wind gods we did not get our wish, again! But wait, later in the day came the "Spaghetti Engine Incident".

I was up in the cockpit cowering from the noise our newly refurbished water maker makes. First there was the thundering dinosaurs, then came the jackhammer, then came heavy metal, and next was our water maker that will probably hold the filling jarring, brain numbing deadly decibel award until the implosion of our sun. Pam was down below working on spaghetti with clam sauce when all of a sudden our engine changed pitch and I dove to shut it off.

You see one of the only projects we decided to postpone was working out a better way to monitor our fuel supply. Starship has had an engine replacement in her past and we have come to learn that whoever installed the new engine cut a corner and only put a fuel return line to tank 1 of Starship's two tanks plus bonus auxiliary tank. There is also only a sight tube (a tube used to view the level of fuel in tank, and somehow not a good choice for a visually impaired crew). All this means that the only tank you can monitor is tank 1 and you must feed the other tanks into tank 1 as you start to get low, the problem being that you never truly know when you are going to run out of fuel in the other tanks. Most boats would have a gauge (or at least a sight tube) for each tank and a method for cross feeding either tank. Therefore, our only solution for attempting to monitor fuel is through experience and mathematics:

Here is a fun mathematical word problem for the students who follow our Blog. How many engine hours do you get if your boat has two 40 gallon tanks and an auxiliary 10 gallon tank and your engine uses approximately ¾ of a gallon of fuel per hour? Next account for 35 gallons of fuel in jerry cans and you will have the goofy guess factor of Starship's fuel resources. This probably makes you long for recess.

Now the big dilemma in our equation is the experience part. Starship is a new boat for us and we have not had enough exposure to the variance in her fuel usage to correctly establish a true hourly usage estimate. The end result is with all the motoring that was required due to calms we were seriously stressed about running out of fuel due to the STUPID monitoring system onboard starship.

Back to the spaghetti situation. It turns out that despite our overly developed numerical prowess we missed some fraction somewhere, or maybe we forgot to carry the 2? Who knows what happened but we didn't quite get it right and that little engine noise I heard was our wonderfully dependable diesel "Big Red" as she was gasping for fuel and then she turned over and died a magnificent death. To pay us back for poor feeding "Big Red" would not allow us to sufficiently bleed the air out of her system until we reach Sydney. For our dedicated readers, do you see an engine pattern here? It is no wonder we like to sail because engines obviously don't like us.

We were both a little glum on Thursday knowing that we had the fuel, had the engine, but could not actually use the engine due to our paranoia of running out of fuel. For once our trusty engine was doing fine and we were responsible for making it all go pear shaped. We did give it a valiant effort to resuscitate the iron beast. We even dug down to the bottom of the lazarette and pulled out our tiny spare generator to recharge the engine battery. However, on our generator's debut use, it would only fire up and run for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. To think we dragged the littler bugger all the way from Maine. Good thing we aren't trying to motor ourselves around the world, or we would be in big trouble. Never fear though, we are a sailboat and sail is what we did. The winds were in our favor (for a change) 10 - 15 knots from the west. We finally found ourselves at the Sydney heads around 02:30 in the morning. Our friends at Sailability had prearranged for the Water Police to give us an escort in to the Customs buoy and they were promptly on the radio working out the details with us. Not only did they give us an escort, but they also provided us with a final tow to the buoy. After at least four attempts at grabbing the buoy in the dark, we were safe and secure in Watson's Bay at 04:00 with three hours to sleep before the Customs agents would be knocking on our boat to officially check us into Australia.

On final reflection of our voyage across the "Terrible Tasman" we definitely concede that this is no tame stretch of benign water. To sail the Tasman you must use weather systems to make way, meaning that you are as dependent on good weather as you are on rainy squally lows to find the wind. This was certainly not trade wind sailing. The currents are illusive and constantly shifting beneath you, with sea mounts lurking beneath the surface. The wind was fickle, ranging from calms to gale force with little warning. We are proud of ourselves for taking on this challenge while humbled by this desolate and unpredictable frontier. We know that we will be facing "the Weather Kitchen" again, but for today - Hooray we are in Sydney mate!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Journal Entry - May 22, 2007 Mother Nature, Up To No Good

Author: Pam

What a difference a few hours can make, that is beginning to feel like a theme. I went to bed at midnight and didn't come on deck again until 0730. Just after midnight Mother Nature turned up the wind dial to over 20 knots, and unfortunately it has been on our nose all day. With that much wind comes waves, which Starship spent until mid afternoon taking over her bow, jumping over or running smack into it, sounding like a brick wall. Scott didn't go off watch all night because he kept working on making some progress toward Sydney, though most of the elements were against us. I lay in bed listening to him grind winches, tack sails, and turn on and off the engine with determination. I did not sleep well as every few minutes I was either nearly falling out of bed or pressed up against the wall. No matter what he did, with wind on the nose the boat will be heeled. The wind and waves were not as strong or as big as the other night, but it was uncomfortable to say the least. I realized today and of course not for the first time, time passes quickly when you are busy. Today we were busy navigating, keeping the sails in trim and looking out diligently for traffic, but the time passed very slowly. I spent the day looking for low spots on the boat to sit and read. Scott napped and kept us making some progress. We concluded today that this has been one of the most difficult landfalls for us so far. We are hoping to sail through the Sydney harbour heads on Thursday afternoon. Come on Starship rattle your dags.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Journal Entry - May 21, 2007 Rattle Your Dags

Author: Pam

Today is the 12th day of the passage and the original estimated date of arrival, that was before the lack of wind and of course those ever present pesky currents. It is 2200 and I am once again on watch. We are approaching the Australian coastline on the current waypoint and will be 15 miles off the coast when we make the turn to head south toward Sydney and hopefully ride the EAC like the big turtles in "Finding Nemo". There isn't much to report today. The forecasted low pressure system did not appear and we had light winds once again, we are still motor sailing. We are in a big fat high (BFH) system and the wind is being sucked away by a low pressure system over New Zealand. It has been a very interesting and definitely different passage. We are happy the weather Gods have been gentle out here in the Tasman, but we were looking forward to sailing.

The day went by quickly for some reason, but I am not really sure why. We have definitely been on passage long enough to get into some semblance of a routine (when we are not walking on the walls), which has included projects from our never ending To Do list. We spent some time organizing and filing the rest of our manuals for all of the gear on board this boat. The fishing pole was out again today, but even "the log" lure (affectionately named by Scott) didn't do the trick. He said it was for catching Tuna which I of course support, but it looked big enough to catch a small whale. So, back to those familiar fishing scores, Fish 3 Starship 0.

We received an email from one of our Kiwi friends the other day with another colloquialism to add to the list posted on May 10th, definitely worth sharing. Thanks Fiona! "Dags - you are correct about the poop - dags are the ends of wool around the
nether regions that collect poop and form into clusters like grapes - sheep are dagged between shearings to avoid fly strike (say no more on that issue) and the dags are sent off to the mills and this wool is scoured and woven
into socks (the heavy working men's type). But in the summer when the dags
are dry and the sheep run they clatter = hence the colloquialism
Rattle your dags! Which means hurry up!"

I will sign off for tonight, I am off to play scrabble with my computer opponent Maven, who cheats, but I am still winning.

Journal Entry - May 20, 2007 - The Calm Before the ?

Author: Pam

I just started my first watch at 2100 and am sitting in the cockpit completely in awe of the moon and the night sky. I am sure there has been at least one other night out here as beautiful, but at the moment I cannot seem to recall it. The moon is fairly new and was out as the sun went down. Though it is new it has been incredibly bright all evening and furthermore is accompanied by another smaller bright star or planet just to the left. It feels like a significant combination and I am sure the astronomers out there could give an explanation. The tandem galactic spectacle has been shining brightly over a sea made of glass. Their reflections look like ribbons that are being held by one end and snapped so they ripple across the water. As I write this entry the moon and its' friend are quickly setting.

We have had absolutely no wind since 1800 last night and have now been motoring for 27 hours, a new all time record. We have finally had a current in our favor this afternoon, running 2.6 knots at the moment. If you are not going to have any wind, it is at least nice to have a current to ride. Today the sky was blue; it was in the 70's (my kind of winter) and calm enough to boil water for pasta without gimbling the stove. There is a low-pressure system forecasted for sometime tomorrow and by the calmness of the water, it has that feeling something could be lurking. It is supposed to be weaker than the one the day before yesterday, so maybe we won't have quite the E-ticket ride, if you don't mind Mr. Toad.

Last night we both slept like the dead for our respective five hours. Scott was so refreshed and a bit hyper after his night's sleep he had the fishing pole out at dawn and actually kept it out until dusk. I suppose you guessed already though, the score is now fish 2, Starship 0. It seems the fish in the Tasman Sea are as elusive as in the Pacific.We were busy all day with boat chores. There was the backed up head, I won't go into details on that one. We went out for an on deck check and found several small issues to attend to. We raised the Australian courtesy flag and the Q flag since the conditions were calm. We are actually a bit early on both, technically you don't fly the courtesy flag until you are in the waters of the country and the Q flag, which is a plain bright yellow flag is flown until you are cleared by the quarantine officials when you arrive in a port. One of the support poles for the wind generator had lost a bolt, which Scott was able to replace. The line used to hold the wind vane paddle out of the water was trailing in the water, yikes not another line in the water. We retrieved it with the boat hook, phew. The dinghy cover had come off in the front and it needed draining from all of the rain and waves. We didn't find any stray sea life or flying fish, though there was a fairly good sized one the other day on the catwalk. It just occurred to me as I sit here with the light of my computer by the opening in the cockpit, I am a flying fish magnet (they and squid are attracted to light). So, with that said it is a good time to end this journal entry and the moon is almost gone. Goodnight Mr. Moon.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Journal Entry - May 19, 2007 - The Tasman Takes a Bite

Author: Scott

In our last journal entry I think I was bragging about having delicious barbecued chicken at sea because there wasn't much wind. Who was that Scott, Pam and Starship and what happened to them? This Tasman Sea is a sneaky little beast, she reels you in and then wham she pounces and unleashes herself upon you.

On Friday the day after our nautical barbecue feast the winds remained light. We continued to plod our way northwest, knowing it was the right thing and dutifully following the route laid out for us by our weather routing service. It is a hard thing to watch your progress at only 50% of what it could be if you just pointed the boat at Sydney and went straight for it. The problem however, is all the illusive currents shifting and swirling hidden beneath the surface of the sea. Not to mention that if we were to head straight for Sydney and a north wind begins to blow, we might be making our landfall in Tasmania, and after my ribbing about the existence (or possibly inexistence) of the Tasmanian Devil, I would probably be locked up in a room full of the buggers directly after stepping onto the dock in Tasmania.

We filled the day with the normal boat chores and emails correspondence. We polished off the Tequila Chicken leftovers for dinner and noticed the wind was beginning to pickup. Now, its not that we weren't aware that a "nasty little low" was brewing south of us, because we were well informed with weather reports and even a special weather update from Ken and Beth on "Eagle's Wings", but we have been in heavy weather and were not all that overly concerned. Before dark we reefed down our mainsail to the second reef and reefed in our jib to a smaller working jib dimension, then we settled into the nightly watch routine.

I closed my eyes at 21:00 and awoke at 22:00 to a completely different environment. The seas were boiling and rushing by with the boat at an 18-degree heel on a starboard tack. I could hear things flying in the forward cabin as Starship randomly rearranged herself and our possessions. Just then Pam called down and said we should do something to reduce our speed, and I was on my feet headed to the cockpit.

The boat was raging along and jumping over swells at nearly 9 knots, almost as if she was taunting the Tasman and saying, "come on give me some more, I can take it". Well, we didn't give her the chance. We reefed in her jib to a small storm jib size and Starship was bridled back to a saner 6 knots. Wow, the waves intensified quickly and had grown to at least 4 meters while I was sleeping. The wind had also escalated from a solid 12 - 15 knots to 25 - 30. Pam and I were serenaded by an orchestra of boat noises that were still foreign to us. There is a distinct difference between sailing at 5 knots in pleasant conditions to bashing along in a gale, and while Tournesol had her heavy weather noises, Starship certainly has her own tune. I am determined to get a good audio recording for the website of the sounds produced by sailing in a gale. When the wind reached 37 knots the wind took on an actual scream.

We rearranged a few things on the boat that had redecorated themselves and I settled back down to try and sleep out the rest of Pam's watch. Just as I seeped back into a feverish sleep, a big, and I do mean big wave picked up the boat, tilted her over and threw the printer across the cabin with plastic parts scattering over me. Wow! That was a wave. I would soon learn that Pam had just mustered up the courage to check the radar in the cockpit when the wave struck and she had to wrap herself around the wind dodger poles like a koala bear to hold on.

At this point we reduced sail down to only a double-reefed main and hung on. We were able to maintain a 4 -5 knot boat speed while the sea raged around us. Later in the night came the rain and this was not your ordinary shower. The skies literally dumped buckets of rain down on the boat. It was like riding through the car wash when you were a kid.

The onset of the rain was the beginning of the slow end to the front. Over the next four long hours the wind very gradually began to ease. At the very end the wind clocked around 180 degrees in five minutes and settled at a calm 8 knots. The seas however, would take most of the next day to lay down, leaving us with an ocean that resembled a motocross track for sailboats, with us jumping over, slamming into, and getting covered by waves and spray.

This bad weather was certainly not pleasant and it was a bit scary after eighteen months off the water, but it was not the worst we have seen, and it gave us an opportunity to get to know what Starship was capable off in rough conditions. In the end Starship performed well. The modifications we made to her rigging made it very easy to make sail changes. She kept us much drier with her higher freeboard and center cockpit. Overall, she did a great job and we also did a pretty good job in conditions that many sailors will never see. There is always room for improvement but we made a good team with our new vessel last night.

On Saturday the weather cleared as predicted in our weather reports. The winds eased back to a weak finicky 5 knots. The sea state retuned to slight and we had to return to motoring. It was like the gale had never happened, but it was certainly a good reminder to always keep your guard up because the ocean has a chaotic mind of her own.
There is not much more to report on for Saturday. We motored, used the time to make some water with our newly refurbished water maker. We dried the boat out and cleaned up from the evening's excitement. We both also tried to nap because we were exhausted, but sleep never does come easy after a good does of excitement, adrenaline, and just a dab of fear. Tonight though, I think there will be some sleepy snoring dogs when they get there time off watch in the doghouse!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Journal Entry - May 17 & 18 - LW+SS=BBTC

Author: Scott

We continue to have light winds with counter current directly on or just off our starboard bow. At times the current is as strong as 2.7 knots, this means if we are sailing (or motoring in our case) at 6 knots, we are actually only making a positive speed over ground (or SOG) of 3.3 knots. This is sort of comparable to walking to Sydney at a brisk pace. Today we had to concede that we would not make landfall on Monday May 21, and we have pushed our estimate back to May 23. Normally, we don't worry much about arrival dates, but we would like to get out of the Tasman before something spooky is cooked up in the "Weather Kitchen".

With every setback you can always find a brighter side, and on Wednesday night the light winds were directly correlated to our stomachs. This can be expressed mathematically as (light wind = LW) and (Scott's Stomach = SS) when combined they equal (Barbecued Tequila Chicken or BBTC), so now you can always remember that LW+SS=BBQTC. Okay, maybe I am getting just a little stir crazy out here, but the barbecued chicken was yummy! Pam had herself a BIG FAT steak. As it turns out our little freezer looses its efficiency when it starts to get low on contents and this gave us extra motivation for our unconventional sea-becue. I bet I looked a little silly out on deck with my PFD and tether on, with spatula in hand, wearing a headlamp. What a difference from meals like the purple corn beef hash concoction we tried to convince ourselves to eat in the ITCZ. Sorry Nemo, none for you tonight!

Thursday was more of the same, light winds with the engine droning on in the background as our only source of making way. Since we were not heeled over and we were plodding along at a speed of 3 knots I decided to try my luck at fishing. After finally catching two fish at Great Barrier Island (New Zealand) I was primed for the hunt and eager to feed the fish queen some sushi. The imperial seafood goddess even dawned her "I heart sushi!" T-shirt for good luck and inspiration. Bottom line though - fish 1 and Starship 0. Not even a nibble and I tried at least five different lures that are marketed as "sure to catch a big one". Poor fish mama had to settle with cheeseburger pie, which turned out to be a hit.

Thursday night was mostly spent motoring with an early morning attempt at sailing. As it turns out 2.5 knots of boat speed slowly built to 4 and the wind clocked around to northeast, giving us a nice push towards the Australian coast. For the first time in days "Big Red" gets a break and we returned to the world of wind powered propulsion. During the morning "Rag of the Air" net we reported our position as having made 75 miles of progress, an improvement of about 50 miles over the day before. The net controller told us "that's what you get when you put your sails up", what a smart a_S!

The other item of note that came out of the morning radio net was the report of a cyclone in the vicinity of the Tasman and Coral Seas. You never want to hear the word cyclone used in the same ocean you are currently sailing on. As it turns out the storm is almost 1,000 miles away and traveling away from us. But for a second there I had thoughts of Dorothy flying over the rainbow, in her little house, with the Wicked Witch looking through her window while riding on her broomstick and cackling.

That's it for today's Tasman tale!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Journal Entry - May 15 & 16 - The Little Red Engine that Could (We Hope)

Author: Pam

Well after the excitement on Monday I am happy to report we don't have any big news. Actually, the biggest news is the lack of wind we have had for the past two days and the currents that are running against us, all making progress a bit slow. Starship's little red engine has been working overtime the past two days, we have motored 18 hours out of the past 24, which is great to be able to, but a bummer when you have to. At the moment we have 8 knots of wind and a 1.9 knot of current against us putting our SOG (speed over ground) at 3.7 knots (slow). It looks like more of the same for tonight and tomorrow. We really are not complaining, not while crossing the sea that is reportedly the most gale strewn body of water in recorded history.

With little wind and calm seas, all is mostly flat and calm aboard Starship. Of course until a little diesel overflows, then you find out how not flat the boat really is. We are still trying to figure out the fuel tank system set-up that left our mechanic in NZ just shaking his head. We are getting there and of course with a little learning the hard way. One of the tanks overflowed slightly while being filled by the other tank sending diesel under the cockpit floor and throughout the boat on the bottom of bare feet. The cockpit has a teak grating which Scott held up while I cleaned under it and then I washed all of the floors, which turned out to be my exercise for the day. Otherwise the day was spent on computer tasks, radio nets and radio check-ins with our friends Jane and Roger on Wings & Strings (they are still in Opua waiting for Roger's back to heal) and of course cooking and eating. So far, we are not on the Jenny Craig sailing diet, that usually happens in rough seas and when the pots are looking at me while on the stove.

One small mechanical problem arose last night and had Scott routing around the engine room in the middle of the night. The alternator that charges our house batteries started to scream. I am sure it goes without saying that is not a good thing, nor pleasant to the ear. It was immediately disappointing; this alternator has been to the shop twice and participated in the high voltage overload that recently fried our stereo and DVD player. Hence it had a lot of attention right before leaving NZ and should not be screaming. Also, not being able to charge our batteries was a box we hope we have already checked. The alternator was too hot to further investigate last night, so Scott was back at this morning. He discovered that the bracket that mounts the alternator appears to have stripped the two bolts holding it to the engine due to vibration. Apparently this was not noticed during the recent problem solving. The good news is there is nothing wrong with the alternator; the bad news is we can not use it until a mechanic can re-tap the screw holes, this is not something we can do at sea, but there is more good news. We have a second alternator that can charge all of the batteries instead of only the one for the engine. We should have no problem getting to Sydney without power issues,

Wednesday (day 7) has been a lot about cooking. I made chocolate chip cookies; before you get too impressed I only had to add milk. I actually made them to test the temperature accuracy of the oven; so far we haven't cooked anything in the oven that needed accurate temps. I've only roasted veggies and baked potatoes and things like that. I just cook until they are done. We don't have a thermometer in the oven (too difficult to see) and I was hoping we didn't have only two settings, on and off. The cookies came out ok, perhaps a little undercooked (Scott ate them anyway; you can always count on him). It was a good test; we'll see how it goes when I make cheeseburger pie tomorrow. Scott made yogurt with our nifty yogurt maker that we bought in New Zealand. You just add water to a packaged mix (no yeast cultures needed), put the container in the yogurt maker (it looks like a thermos) in hot water and 8-10 hours later voila you have a quart of yogurt. Lastly we are planning to BBQ chicken for dinner, that is how calm it is out here.

We have not seen any boats or anything else for that matter since the second day when a convoy of three freighters passed on our port side. One is bad enough; we can definitely live without three at a time in the neighborhood. Well, actually we did see two birds on the third and fourth day; it is always strange to see them hundreds of miles off of the coast. They can be known to hitchhike on your boat (as well as do other unmentionable things), but thank goodness they must not have been tired or full.

For those of you who are following our course on the internet, (you can access this on the "Where Are We?" link on our website) you may be wondering why we have gone so far north when Sydney is west. We are hopefully setting ourselves up to work with the N and NW winds that are expected in a couple of days and when we get close to the coast of Australia we will jump into the East Australian Current (EAC) and ride down to Sydney. If we don't go north now and get pushed more south and go below Sydney it will be very difficult to get back up the coast with the wind and the EAC against us. Incidentally, the movie "Finding Nemo" may have put the EAC on the map, however apparently it is not a veritable highway as portrayed in the movie. We are looking forward to a current that is our friend and at 2 to 3 knots if we are going in the right direction the EAC will be very welcomed.

Did you know Australia is the only nation which is also a continent? It is a land of few rivers, a vast desert plateau in the center, with a chain of mountains (The Great Dividing Range) to the east and narrow coastal plains to the south east. Also, Tasmania and the Torres Straight Islands are part of Australia and there are the overseas territories of Norfolk Island, Cocos Keeling and Christmas Island. The population of Australia is 17.8 million, 4 million of which live in Sydney. Sydney's population alone is equivalent to the entire country of New Zealand. The aboriginal peoples of Australia probably arrived from Asia 60,000 years ago, but today they make up only one percent of the population. Australia will be the seventh country we visit and we are looking forward to learning more about the culture and services provided to people with visual impairments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Journal Entry - May 14, 2007 "Let's jibe off to starboard for the night" or The Tasmanian Devil Strikes Starship!

Author: Scott

This Journal will use a number of sailing terms and I will try to translate for those of you who are not sailors.

This particular entry actually starts off with Pam and I standing in the cockpit under a pitch black blanket of darkness. There must have been a thick cloud layer because there were no stars in sight and the moon is taking his monthly break. Of course this is the perfect setting for calamity to strike. We are always amazed that these things seem to happen after dark, either just at bedtime or after just after you close your eyes off watch.

I said to Pam "Lets move to a starboard tack for the night, then I think we won't need to make any other changes until morning." The maneuver we were planning is called a jibe and you jibe a boat when you pass the stern of the boat across the wind so the opposite (leeward) side of the boat is transitioned to the side facing the wind (windward). You generally make this maneuver when the boat is already traveling down wind. It is a nifty way to tack the boat quickly, but it is also a little trickier than tacking the bow across the wind as there is a no sail zone and your sails have a time when they are not driving the boats momentum. When you jibe you instantly switch the leeward side of the boat to windward. You have probably seen in the movies when a person is comically knocked off the boat with the boom, this is generally done by jibing the boat when the sail changes the direction that it is hit by the wind and the boom travels across the wind to the opposite side of the boat. Unfortunately, in real sailing there is rarely an instance when a person is harmlessly hit by the boom and nudged in the water. An accidental jibe has led to many serious injuries or death, and has resulted in the loss of many masts. Therefore, jibing is a little more technical then tacking but is a common sailing maneuver when executed correctly.

We did everything right for a nice gentle jibe. We brought the boom to center so that it would not violently swing across the boat during the jibe. We were prepared to release the mainsheet to allow the boom to take on the pressure from the new angle of the wind. We prepared the new working winch (the winch that would hold the sail in trim after the jibe, and prepared the current working winch to become the lazy winch (no longer holding the wind's load). Lastly, we used our auto pilot to slowly but steadily bring the stern through the wind and execute the jibe. Everything went just right. The boom changed wind angle and moved across the stern. I released the working sheet (line holding the sail) and immediately took up winching in the new working sheet. Now, we have done this many, many times and we even pride ourselves in our timing. What we didn't plan on was the fact that you are always shaking down a new yacht and Starship had excessively long jib sheets, this allows a lot of excess line to fly free when the jib (forward headsail) is moving across to the opposite side of the boat. Even though we had figure eight stopper knots at the end of the sheet so that the end could not fly off the boat, there was still enough excess line to fly over the bow of the boat, slide down the hull under Starship and immediately tangle itself on our prop that was slowly turning beneath us. "Oh rats (maybe a little stronger actually) immediately came from my mouth. Not only was the sheet pinned under the boat, but the jib was a mess and viscously cracking like a whip in the 20 knot wind.

So here we were wind blowing, jib a tangle under an extreme wind load with a savagely dangerous loose sheet snapping in the wind and pinned under the boat and there was no way we could engage the engine because the prop was fouled. This was one of those situations that "went all pear shaped" as they would say in New Zealand in the blink of an eye. One minute we were sailing along in storybook conditions and the next we were faced with multiple problems all at once. The Tasmanian Devil had struck without warning! The little bugger!

After the initial shock we both reacted as we always do Pam a little stressed and me a little overly quiet and contemplative. However, from this point in the story we made a fabulous team (despite a few terms of frustration along the way). After dawning our PFD (personal flotation devices or life jackets) and clipping in, I went to the bow to assess the situation. What a mess! The jib was a twisted sculpture of chaos, the loose sheet was randomly lashing out like a snake with its tail in an electrical socket, and there was no budging the end of the wild sheet that was trapped under the boat. "Rats and double rats" and again maybe my language was a little more colorful. My first move was to tell Pam to release the end of the fouled sheet. Can you say STUPID with a capital S for Scott? The sheet was already fouled and all this did was lose one end of the line overboard to create more trouble. Okay, in my opinion that was the one and only truly dumb ass thing I did that night. I tried to improve my record and I yelled to Pam that we should try to furl the twisted and wildly thrashing sail (this is how you put away a headsail by using the equivalent of a big spool to wind up the sail). Believe it or not, even tangled we were able to furl the sail and subdue the beast and his nasty friend the snaky sheet. We removed the now flaccid jib sheet and tied it off until we could deal with the tangle. We unfurled the sail and then reset it with all of the twists now gone. Calm returned to Starship!

So, here is the situation. Nothing was in danger of hurting us. The boat was still moving with a fouled prop, making the engine inoperable and the end of Scott's stupid sheet was hanging in the water for our Tasmanian friend to have his way with it. The good news was that we had steerage and time to think, and think we did. We decided to wait out the darkness, mull over our options and reconvene in the morning. This did nothing for our beauty sleep, but we successfully sailed along on course for the remainder of the night.

When the sun came up so did our spirits. We had a bad situation but a manageable one. We really had two options. We could do nothing, sail to Sydney without an engine (we have had a bit of practice) but there is a potential for the loose line to snare the rudder (device used for steering), creating a catastrophic problem at sea, being adrift with no steering. The second option was to dive the boat, free the prop and all would be a box of fluffies (Kiwi for swell). Now, before our sailing friends admonish us, yes we know that any time you leave your vessel underway is a highly serious undertaking. If you and the boat become separated, your chances of survival have just equaled walking through a football field of rattle snakes. Our sailing instructor put it very well; "think of falling off your boat like falling off the Empire State Building". However, with a good plan, painstaking preparation, and common sense you can turn any dangerous task into a reasonably safe exercise.

Here is how we solved our problem. First, we hove to (a sailing maneuver that opposes steering with the wind thus stopping the boat). Heaving to is a very useful maneuver allowing a crew to make sail changes in adverse conditions, ride out a storm, or just simply cook a meal with less turbulence. Once we had the boat stopped we could assess our conditions. We had fairly light winds and the sea state was slight. There was about a knot of current flowing by the boat (any current can be hazardous when diving off a boat). We determined that the conditions were suitable to free up the line. We meticulously prepared the SCUBA gear and deployed our dinghy with the bulk of the gear lashed inside. We secured a line to a winch and the boat and then attached this to me using a tether and harness over my wetsuit. I then climbed off the boat and into the dinghy. This gave me a chance to further assess the sea conditions at the level of the water. I could actually reach in and feel the current to make a good estimate of the strength. The dinghy also gave me an easy place close to the waterline to return to if necessary. Feeling confident that the conditions though not perfect were indeed safe and acceptable I dawned my gear and flopped overboard. Woe doggy - there sure was a knot of current and you would be surprised how much that can pull on you. However, I was always securely tied to the boat with Pam carefully monitoring events from Starship. Now at this point the wildlife talk on dangerous species we attended in Sydney was spinning wildly through my mind. Weren't we close to Australia where there were all kinds of poisonous and viscous animals, Salt water crocodiles and sharks just to name a few. I trailed the boat keeping a hold and constantly checking my safety line. When I first swam under the boat I could immediately see my challenge. The Tasmanian Devil did a good job of tangling the line. I dove down and pulled myself forward with the fowled sheet. I then wedged myself safely under the rudder avoiding any sudden movements from the boat. I then first tried to cut the tangled line free but soon realized that I could more successfully unwind the tangle by hand. Besides the thought of spilling any blood to attract friends was on my mind, even though I have heard that sharks are not attracted to human blood, for all I know my fish and chips the other night could taint my blood and make me smell like a Big Mac. In less than ten minutes I had the line free and I returned to the surface. I told Pam to untie the line from the boat and she hauled it aboard. I made a further inspection under water and then let the current pull me to the boarding ladder at the aft of the boat. I crawled on board very tired but triumphant in the success of my mission. I untied my safety line, removed my gear and spent five minutes just basking on deck like a flying fish drying in the sunshine. The rest of the morning was spent tidying up and stowing the dinghy. We took the opportunity while we were hove to take care of a few other maintenance issues and at 11:30 we were back underway with the problem behind us and the Tasmanian Devil at least temporarily tamed.

The remainder of the day was lazy with lots of email and Sydney preparations to attend to. When my first sleep period came I was sacked out before Pam had finished brushing her teeth before going on watch. What a day at sea.

Now at this point in our little tale those sailors who are reading along are probably saying I would have, I could have, you should have… We like to share our challenges as well as our triumphs so everyone can glean something from the experience. There are no perfect sailors out there and we like to share our struggles with you to get your ideas and feedback, not to point out our dorkier moves, as well as offer solutions to sailors with similar situations. We would like your feedback, suggestions, and even criticism when we have just troubleshot a challenge. Overall we think we did a good job, we made a few mistakes along the way, but when faced with adversity we successfully and calmly (for the most part) found our solutions independently. Boy was I tired and sore the next day!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Journal Entry - May 12 & 13, 2007 :Gumby visits Starship

Author: Pam

As the saying goes, "what a difference a day makes." Saturday we were tearing along close-hauled making 6-7 knots into moderate seas, basically that equals walking on the walls. It was definitely a Starship tutorial for what is more difficult when the boat is heeled on a port tack. First of all, I am not a boat designer but it seems to me if you are going to have a boat with two heads, one port and one starboard would be something to consider. Starship has two heads and they are both on the port side of the boat. Therefore, if you are on a port tack that puts both of them on the high side of the boat, which presents its challenges to say the least, I'll spare the details.

Now, the galley is on the starboard side, which we already knew would make cooking more of an Olympic event. However, we did finally discover why there was a constant puddle behind the galley sink. When I turned on the faucet to wash the lunch dishes I watched the water go everywhere, but in the sink. After we considered several ideas including using the foot pump (which water just poured out of due to the heel of the boat) we settled on flattening out the boat. Scott trimmed the sails for a reach, which allowed most of the water to end up in the sink and probably only took moments off our ETA.

Other than cooking and dishes, some email concerning our arrival in Australia, my day was focused on getting from one place to another on the boat without another bruise. Starship has more wide-open spaces than our little Tournesol. My night was spent watching huge white-topped waves rush by the cockpit window while Starship surfed along. After the rush of being on my first watch I was very much looking forward to my first sleep. I crawled into bed, which Scott had just vacated, and was instantly holding on for dear life to not end up on the floor. You guessed it the bed is in on the port side of the boat. I am still in awe that Scott did not land on his head, because I felt I needed Gumby's arms and legs to stay in bed. Well, after a few minutes of practically hanging off the edge it became clear the lee cloth was in order. Fortunately there is one under the bunk and after a few minutes of knot tying I was ready to crawl into my new cocoon and Scott was serenading me with the Gumby theme song. Pretty scary the things he knows sometimes. I still slept on the edge, but at least with the piece of mind I was going to stay in the bed. We didn't need to use lee cloths on Tournesol until the last few days of the passage from Tonga to New Zealand. Starship does not have amidships sleeping options, unless you sleep in the cockpit, which in warmer conditions could be very nice. This was definitely the most exhilarating day so far and I think we did well in our Starship 101 class.

Sunday morning the wind clocked from South to South South East, ahhhh downwind. The boat flattened out, the seas calmed, the sun came out, we were averaging 6 knots and it was a beautiful and very comfortable sailing day. After we both napped in the morning ( we didn't get much sleep due to the challenge of staying on a deep down wind point of sail and Gumbyitis) we were quite productive. We spent the late morning respectively reading the manuals for all of our Raymarine instruments, radar and GPS. There are many options for settings and features that we have not explored yet. We had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch; I like that lunch because Scott is the cook and the grilled cheese connoisseur. Actually he is the connoisseur of anything that involves melted cheese.

We then decided to take advantage of the calm seas and take a shower, well not to mention it had been four days. Some of you may recall the showering routine on Tournesol happened in the cockpit using a modified insect sprayer. She had a shower in the head, but we never used it for various reasons, one being water conservation. Both of Starship's heads are also showers and with a working water maker we have decided that is the way to go. We do have a solar shower on board, but we donated our beloved bug shower to a new home right before leaving Opua (Scott took its' picture first). The seas remained calm for a relaxing dinner of sautéed chicken, veggies and baked potato. I was looking forward to settling in for a much calmer night when Scott suggested "let's jibe to a starboard tack for the night…" What a difference a few minutes make…

Friday, May 11, 2007

Journal Entry - May 11, 2007 What Did You Say, Mate?

Author: Pam
Since arriving in the South Pacific we have been presented with the challenge of the pronunciation of words containing many vowels. In most cases, but of course not all, you pronounce each vowel, with the exception of some combined vowels that make one sound. The use of many vowels leaves you with names of places such as Tutukaka, Whangamumu and Whangaruru, all places we visited as we made our way up the coast of New Zealand. Or, Whangaparapara where we went fishing on Great Barrier Island and pohutakawa a red flowering tree referred to as New Zealand's Christmas tree. These are Maori names and words, the Polynesian culture in New Zealand. Unfortunately, our Maori vocabulary is not very extensive, but the language is actively spoken and preserved throughout New Zealand.

In addition to sometimes being vowel challenged, we have learned many of the kiwi phrases and vocabulary. Due to New Zealand's past history with England, many of the words or phrases you would hear there as well. Also, more often than not it is a word that is familiar, but used entirely different and you add the accent and you can be left with the deer in the headlights stare. After living in NZ for eight of the past eighteen months it became easier to slip many of these colloquiums into our daily conversations. I thought it would be fun to pass a few along. First is the list without the meaning (in case you want to take a stab at the meaning) and following is the list with the meaning or an example. I think some of them are far more fun than how an American would say it.

Ok, put on your kiwi hat:


Chilly Bin
Kia Ora
Bit of a Dag
No Worries
Do Up
Good on ya
Pudding or Pud
Box of Fluffy Ducks
Sweet as
Turn to Custard
Turn Pear Shaped
dub dub dub
Dark as the inside of a cow

Ok, how many did you get right?

Lift - elevator

Boot - car trunk
Jumper - sweater or jacket
Queue - a line that forms
Loo - restroom, they often just say toilet
Spanner- wrench
Choice - equivalent to good or great as a response
Lot - "is that the lot?", you are often asked this at the grocery store checkout
Eftpos - their banking debit card system
Chips - french fries, they love fish and chipsCrisps - potato chips, I have previously mentioned the unusual flavors, ie: chicken, lamb and mint, chorizo and Italian Tomato.
Rank - a line of taxis
Squab - boat cushions, either cockpit or interior
Shout - to pay for something for someone else, ie: you would shout them a trip to Disneyland
Ta - thanks
Cheers - hello, thanks
Bicci - cookie
Chilly Bin - ice chest
Bugger - a mild curse for when things are not going well
Kia Ora - hello or welcome (Maori)
Bit of a Dag - we can't remember the exact meaning, but it has something to do with sheep poop
No Worries - a response commonly used to express it wasn't a problem at all to provide assistance or information. "No worries Mate"
Mate - friend or causal acquaintance, Good on ya Mate, Good Day Mate or I went to the movies with my Mate
Fortnight - 2 weeks
Kaimoana - seafood feast (Maori), of course one of my favorites :
Jandals - flip flops
Togs - bathing suit
Feed - to have a meal
Tea - could be lunch, afternoon tea or dinner
Do Up - fixer upper house
Barbie - BBQ
Cuppa - cup of anything hot, tea, coffee or soup
Nappies - diapers
Knackered - tired
Good on ya - praise for doing something well to extraordinary
Jug - tea kettle
Handle - large beer
Mozzy - mosquito
Entree - main meal on a menu
Pudding or Pud - dessert
Box of Fluffy Ducks - a response if you ask how are you doing and the person is having a good day, they are "like a box of fluffy ducks"
Sweet as - positive affirmation
Stuffed - broken (a word we came to dread)
Dear - expensive (another word we came to dread)
Turn to Custard - whatever you are working on is not going well
Turn Pear Shaped - whatever you are working on is also not going well and feels like it turned upside down
dub dub dub - wwwZed - the letter Z, ie: NZ is N Zed
Winging - to whine or complain
Dark as the inside of a cow - very dark, but I guess you probably figured that out

Good on ya mate for playing my little game! You're ready to come to New Zealand and complain about the possums with the rest of the Kiwis.

Journal Entry - May 10 - 11: Off to Face the Tasmanian Devil

All I knew about Tasmania was that there was a plump psychotic cartoon character with bad breath, who must have drank way too much coffee, and talked like he had just eaten a bag of pinecones. What is a Tasmanian Devil anyway? When we visited Australia by air we supposedly saw this marsupial marvel in a dark cage, it wasn't moving, and I am suspicious they dressed up a tranquilized baby kangaroo, shoved it under bad lighting and charged $29.95 to see this rare Tasmanian wonder, anyway, I am digressing. We didn't know much about Tasmania other than there may be a devil, we knew it is the stomping ground for the famous Sydney to Hobart race, and it is home to one of the most infamous stretches of water known to sailors. So, here we are crossing the Tasman Sea. We know a lot more about it now! We have leaned that it is called the "weather kitchen", you usually get a gale either at the start or end of a voyage, and that you have to look out for Sea Mountains that can spring up out of the depths, hidden just under the surface and creating breaking waves in the middle of the open sea with no land in sight. Before I scare our readers senseless, please know that we have meticulously researched a good weather window and we have even used a weather routing service for the first time.

So far the trip has been good! We departed Opua, New Zealand at noon May 10. The morning was a controlled frenzied collage, racing for showers, to meet customs, pay the marina, getting fuel, finishing a few final projects, and a plethora of other departure tasks. When 12:00 rolled around, we were ready to go! Our friend Roger from Wings & Strings who had helped us all morning (despite his sprained back) was on the dock with our friends Karen and Barry from Sarabi and new friends from Nyriad. We pulled away from the fuel dock at 12:10, circled the boat for a few photos, and headed off to face the Tasman!

Our trip out of the Bay of Islands was refreshing. We shared the relief of finally leaving after so much preparation. The sea was gentle, under a murky gray sky, and the ocean lay before us with so many memories of past passages. Our first day at sea was spent mostly motor sailing in light winds. Food was quick and easy as Pam had prepared a number of scrumptious comfort meals in advance, and before you knew it the sun was down and our first night at sea in eighteen months was upon us. The night was black early in the evening and Pam was on watch first (as she always is). We were still motor sailing so keeping our course was no problem. The first night of any passage is always spooky, it's not like we see much more off the boat in the day, but light is comforting somehow, you never hear of kids being afraid of the light. By the time I came on deck and Pam hit berth, the stars were out in force. Mr. moon was still off doing his business elsewhere but the sky was beautiful. The remainder of our watch schedule went smoothly. We were trying a new 2.5 hour watch schedule that went as follows:

Pam on watch: 21:00 - 23:30
Scott on watch: 23:30 - 02:00
Pam on watch: 2:00 - 04:30
Scott on watch: 04:30 - 07:00

We then randomly take turns being on watch in the morning while the other person naps.

Now I don't know where I got the silly notion that going to sea would give me a chance to chill out and unwind from all the hectic preparations. Once we got through the morning radio nets and shrugged off the groggies from the first night at sea, we had to set to work on updating folks in Australia regarding our arrival. Then we got an email from a reporter from the Auckland Sunday Herald who was writing a story on our departure and she needed questions answered ASAP. Just as we were setting out to accomplish this task, I happened to look out the port side cockpit door and noticed that we were the recipients of a viscous and brutal bird bombing. New Zealand must have pterodactyls patrolling the skies because this dude strafed out boat with the gooeyist and squishiest weapon in his arsenal, and whatever he ate last must have contained Super Glue. It was disgusting! I think the bird population must have been spying on Pam and somehow overheard her opinion on the aviary species and decided to teach her a lesson. "See ya later sister, take this for the road - splat, splat, splat, splat, splat." And who do you think had to clean up the retribution for Pam's bird bashing, you guessed it, the guy who loves our fine-feathered friends! It took me nearly two hours with me in PFD and tethered to the boat.

When the day finally did settle down we had a chance to relax listen to music and reflect on our return to the sea. Late in the day we also got our first sailing wind and we were off to face the Tasman and any devils that might be lurking.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Journal Entry - May 10, 2007 - Here we go again!

Author: Scott

It is hard to image that 18 months ago today we reached New Zealand, rounding the Whangarei Heads to sail up the river to Ray Roberts Marina. Tournesol was wet, tired, and in need of some serious refit attention. Pam and I were in about the same condition. We had just experienced our worst weather during the voyage and a warm meal and dry bed were only a few miles away.

So much has happened since then. Tournesol got the attention she needed by her new owner(s), and will probably live out her maritime days in the beautiful but challenging waters of New Zealand and the South Pacific. Starship was purchased and turned out to need even more refit attention than Tournesol. She was wonderfully spacious and filled our thoughts with the excitement of more live aboard space while at the same time filling us with apprehension of a bigger boat to manage, clean, and navigate. Riverside Drive Marina would become our new home with its eclectic mix of sailors and future friends. Boat project management would become all consuming, until the day we returned to the States to work to feed the cruising (and boat project) kitty.

Our time in the States was a blur; working hard, living on land again, and thrusting ourselves back into a foreign and oddly frenetic lifestyle. Too little time, but time indeed to see our good friends in San Francisco and families! We have wonderful memories of our little room in the big flat that we shared with Joan and Richard, who opened their home to us. The boat was one unbelievable project after another and ate up any free time, and she also managed to eat up most of the cruising kitty funds we were trying to replenish. Then before you could say "box of fluffy ducks" we were racing back to New Zealand to prepare for our departure.

Since our return to New Zealand in early December the pace has only quickened. Boat work continued to dominate, but we found time to meet a new season of cruisers and we even managed to make some wonderful new friends. There were times when this whirlwind year was ground to a dogged pace of monotonous daily chores and endless lists, and a minute later the past eighteen months seems to have been sucked away by some mysterious worm hole leaving us wondering how we could possibly still have such a list of to dos left.

At the end of the day (or eighteen months) I am left with an overwhelming sense of anticipation to get going, memories to reflect on and savor, unfinished journal entries to write, more wonderful star filled nights to sail under, and but most importantly - I am even more excited to continue this wonderful adventure than ever! The first ride on the roller coaster is complete, we waited in line, paid for our ticket, and now we are getting strapped in for whatever comes next! Whatever lies ahead there is no doubt that we are on an E ticket ride, so Mr. Toad look out!

May 10, 2007 - Update - departing for Sydney

Hello friends and supporters of the Blind Circumnavigation!

This is a quick update to bring you up to speed on a few exciting developments regarding our voyage.

First, after exactly 18 months to the day, and after a complete refit of Starship we are on the move! We departed from the Opua Marina fuel dock at 12:00 noon on Thursday May 10 (local New Zealand time). Our objective is to reach Sydney, Australia in approximately 9 – 12 days. During our voyage we will be crossing the notorious Tasman Sea, know by many as the “Weather Kitchen”, because of the often unpredictable weather patterns that can develop in this remote region. However, we have taken every step possible so that we will hopefully enjoy a smooth and safe passage.

After a three week stay in Sydney, where we will visit the various agencies for the blind in Australia, we will continue on to Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Singapore, and eventually Thailand to wait out the Indian Ocean cyclone season. At least these are our intentions today.

Another exciting announcement is our recent backing by Humanware, a New Zealand based global manufacturer and distributor of adaptive technology products for people with visual impairments. We use a number of their products aboard Starship. We are thrilled about this new partnership and their participation should help us spread the word to many more visually impaired people! To learn more about Humanware visit

We get lonely on passage and would love to hear from you. Also, if you have an opportunity we would love to know the final outcome of the America’s Cup.

Scott and Pam
S/V Starship