Nothing happens on accident/there is no such thing as a coincidence – I’m a firm believer in these sayings. So as I stared at the moon on my new back porch in the hip suburb of West-End, Brisbane, Australia – I wondered how exactly it came to be that my feet were now back on Aussie soil? Two and a half years, six continents, twenty three countries, one failed on again/off again relationship, and I was physically back where I started! “Yo, La Lunar, why am I back here? Why have I traded South Americas simple spiritual society for this complicated consumerism society?”
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of having ‘a normal life’, even if I knew it was only temporary. I still had a few weeks before I started to study – oh yeah that’s why I came back…. It was getting late, so as I retired to my room, to what I expected to be a night of reminiscing of the past adventures and scheming and dreaming of my next. At that moment, the ‘coincidence’ slapped me in the face – like “Hey Rebbie – it’s not over, until the fat lady sings” – via Facebook messenger. It read :
A captain I had found months ago while searching on a crew finding website, trying to find a boat sailing back to Australia (www.crewbay.com) – messaged me on Facebook, offering my first international crossing and a paid return flight! Can I get a hell yeah?!!! (I knew la lunar was listening :P).
So we spent the next few hours and days sorting out the logistics, how many expected days at sea – ten to twelve – which meant missing my first study orientation day, but who really goes to those anyway?
It’s probably worth noting here that yes I was about to go sailing with someone whom I had never met before, and no I didn’t have his whole life story, yet – there would plenty of time for that.
Safety tips for choosing a yacht/captain to sail with : I evaluate a person/skipper by:
- Their crewing profile, their photos, any references and the content of their write up (if it says they are looking for a relationship, then that’s an automatic no no, from me).
- Adding them on social media, and stalk the hell out of them lol. What do their friends say on their wall? What kind of things do they post? Their interests, are they comparable with mine? Their photos, do they drink? I like the middle path, not too much, not too little. I’m still young and want to have the freedom to drink if I choose, some captains will not allow it while crossing internationally. How many fish do they catch? Is it going to be an issue for them having a vegan on board?
- Checking out any websites they might have, blogs, or YouTube channels.
- Getting their phone number and calling first, or arrange a Skype call, and I ask them any questions I might have. Just gotta do it. You don’t ask, you don’t get.
Facebook and the combination of the above methods can tell you almost everything you need to know about a person.
Also, you need to have a fierce judge of character! For me, it all comes down to the good vibes. But equally important – they need to have the passion for sailing and an interest in teaching eager learners.
Captain: Jemison – Ohio born and raised, highly educated, very well traveled and had been sailing almost all his life on his fathers yacht. While attending high school he jumped at an exchange program in Nepal, but before going onto College/Uni he was hand picked by his high school principal to attend a one year exchange program at the same school as most English royalty (think Prince Harry) in London, United Kingdom, until finally returning to the USA to earn his Degree.
Jemison chose to be councilor, even though most of his class mates and he too could have been a lawyer or a high profile business man, sporting his business socks 😛 (Flight of the Concords anyone? :P). Anyway what I’m trying to say is he’s smart and did it for the extra long holidays and nil lesson planning :P. No, actually, he’s a genuine top bloke so he chose to help kids, advice them and brainstorm of innovative ways to assist them in rising to their full potential both academically and personally.
He lived and worked for many years in China, New Zealand and Thailand before deciding he wanted to buy a boat. Oh yeah he also taught sailing most of his teenage and adult life at his local sailing club in Ohio. Jackpot? Let the learning to sail continue!
Second Mate: Maya – Maya was also highly educated, in Poland, where she earned multiple scholarships, and degrees, studied many different languages, as well as speaking German and Polish at home, she could speak Spanish, Italian, English, and a little Dutch. She was a linguist/translator and a Vegan! I was so happy to have another crew member joining us so the night watches wouldn’t be quite so daunting and drawn out, and keen to see what vegan whip ups I could poach from her and add my recipe list!
She is also a roamer, with no ‘home’, when I met her she was volunteering on an Eco Farm in the Sunshine Coast – QLD, and living in a tent. She has been living simply and roaming internationally for over five years, and ten years if you count roaming around in Europe. Earning a little money when/if she needed it – translating documents online. She even turned down a job at the Polish Embassy in America because she didn’t want to “lick anybody’s asshole'”. She was a bad-ass!
I like to think of myself as a Eco Warrior but Maya was the ultimate Earth Protector. She told me one year she decided she wouldn’t buy anything! Well anything apart from essentials like a tooth brush, or toothpaste, or shampoo – but even these things she would try to make on her own, and has lived this way ever since. So her wardrobe is old and second-hand, but she doesn’t care! She once sewed a jacket onto some shorts, and made “an ugly pair of pants” – half blue, and half pink! She was quite inspirational actually! Both Jemison and Maya were!
So lets go!!!
Day 0 : (LONG – 153°5,663’E, LAT – 27°26,781’S) : I had my good girlfriend drop me at the boat so she could also met Jemison and give me a second opinion – she gave me the green light based on attitude and good vibes :). So I said my goodbyes to her and climbed into the dingy with Jemison to go and meet SV Wildline. Maya would meet us at the boat in the morning, so I had the night to claim the best bed – my own cabin at the bow (front of the boat), which at the time, because I hadn’t completed a crossing before, I thought was the best bet…
Jemison and I talked, shared a little bit more of our life stories, information on the passage, what to expect etc and we called it a night.
Day 1 (Tuesday 17th January 2017) : Maya came to the boat 9am – ofcourse she had hitchhiked down to Brisbane from the Sunshine Coast – about 111kms (68 miles). Badass!
We went to Coles and loaded up with $300 worth of food, with some was extra, e.g. we would not eat it all. So Jemison paid for half and we divided the rest by three. Maya and I paid $50 each. Not bad huh!?
Fuel costs – I did not ask or write down! Tisk Tisk – but I can get the details if anyone is interested in knowing that….
We were all checked out of the country by 1pm by the cheeky Australian custom officers giving me shit, because I’m from New Zealand and they think it is soooo funny (eye roll) making dumb sheep jokes. They wouldn’t let me take a photo of them….lamos lol.
Jemison said his goodbyes to some friends he had made, and we set off!
The distance was projected to be about 1300 nautical miles (2292 kilometers, 1424 miles or 1237 nautical miles) – well that’s calculated by this website :(https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/distanceresult.html?p1=47&p2=22) from Brisbane to Auckland so I added a little more to cover sailing around the tip of the North Island, NZ to Opua. If anyone knows of a better sailing distance calculator – please let me know in the comments section!
I took the helm, and dam it felt good to be sailing again!! The water was disgustingly dirty all the way to Morton Bay, you wouldn’t want to swim in these parts, with ships dumping their holding tanks and god knows what else…
Jemison showed us how to use the navigation systems and how to steer the boat, using degrees on the Nav system, so we basically just had to keep the needle on the degree he advised, which was enough for the first day.
We heated up some left over home made vegetarian pizza for dinner and Maya made herself a salad.
I booked a return flight back to Brisbane and was going to be reimbursed later by Jemison, as that was the deal. In hinesight – I should never have booked a flight before arriving to the destination. You just can’t bank on having enough wind to plan any kind of set in stone schedule. Lesson learnt, as you’ll read later…
I was meant to take the first night watch starting at 12am, but when I woke up from my nap to report for duty, Jemison said the conditions were too rough and sent me back to bed. I was waiting for the shake of the shoulder, expecting it at about 3am, but it never came! He stayed at that wheel the entire night! Therefore I was eager to take over ASAP when I woke the next day (6-7am). Poor guy was nodding off!
Day 2 – Wednesday 18th January 2017: I wanted to cook a nice breakfast for the Captain, for when he woke up – potato patty with a poached egg on top, a little spinach, slices of tomato and aioli sauce – but I couldn’t find the freaking frying pan. Durrh – I had forgotten to ask. So I made roast potatoes instead, covered with Italian herbs and cut them into little cubes so they would cook faster. Rosemary and Oregano radiated a calming scent throughout the galley, and Maya and I could chill in the cockpit, while the oven did all the heavy lifting.
Shifts : We divided the days like so; 4 hour morning shifts, 2 hour afternoon shifts, and 3 hour night watch shifts. Maya and I would also swap night watches, for two nights at a time. So I would start at 8pm and finish at 12am and then Maya would start at 12am and finish at 3am (the graveyard shift) and Jemison got the sunrise shift, because well, he’s the captain and he loves the 3am – 6am/7am shift. Then Maya and I would swap after she had the graveyard shift for two nights, and I would do 12am-3am, to keep it fair.
I felt more comfortable at the wheel by the second day, I understood better how to stare the boat by using the rudder indicator to keep the course straight, in sailing terms called “square/squaring it off”.
We had absolutely beautiful weather for our first full day sailing – blue on blue and a few clouds. So once the Jemison had a feed, and had perked up – it was the perfect time, to suggest a welcome aboard Rum, even Maya joined in on the fun, when she “doesn’t drink”. Ha! Bad influences? We had fun and shared more of our backgrounds, I told them about working in the Oil and Gas industry for many years, which went down like a cold cup of sick! 🙂 But reminded them both, that it is the main industry in Australia and that I no longer earn my money that way….I cracked open two more of my twenty four precious apple ciders.
We recorded a little first day video diary each where Maya said she would “love to be on one of the container ships because they were going faster,” which I thought was a little on the nose. We weren’t going that slow! Polish humor? I don’t know. So I made mine extra positive and exclaimed how happy I was with the weather, to be sailing again and with Jemisons outstanding safety briefing, he treated us to earlier lol.
(Videos are currently in the process of editing to put on my youtube channel – stay tuned for them).
Maya cooked some rice and veges for dinner, with a vegan sauce, I washed the dishes and Jemison took the helm. I was woken up at 1am for my three hour graveyard shift, but the wind had died down to almost nil, so Jemison took over again and actually stopped the boat and put it into safety position, in sailing terms “heave to”, and we all went to sleep.
Day 3 : (LONG – 28°06.873S, LAT – 155°09.850E, Direction 60°NE) : Woke up to very rough seas, the likes of which I had never seen before! I was a little concerned actually and I could see on J’s face he was too! Two huge waves splashed over the side and I was completely wet within seconds, well good morning to you too angry ocean :(!! The swell was maybe 6m high!
I took over from Jemison eventually, he heated up some veges and rice for breakfast, and we halved it while Maya snoozed away! It was a gray and cloudy day, clearing up a little in the evening. I had heaps of fun steering though the huge waves.
Jemison shared his New Zealand Iron Man story with me, highlighting the fact that he was a bad-ass too :). So he had trained everyday for the Taupo Iron Man challenge for a year! He had gotten to the point where on a Sunday he would start early morning swimming for two hours, run the rest of the morning, go home, eat something and then ride for five hours in the afternoon. Bloody legend! So when the weather turned to shit, as it so often does in NZ, and the triathlon was cancelled – he rallied up a few hard core athletes to do it anyway, rain, hail or shine! Competitors that were still in town, saw him running on the street, with a few others who had joined him in being a bad-ass, and next minute they had all these random people joining for the run! Just like a Forest Gump moment :). Needless to say, I was impressed!!
Fuel leaked into the cockpit floor under the steering wheel. Not so good…don’t know why…but we cleaned it up with paper towels.
I attempted to cook a oven pasta lunch, with a homemade tin foil pouch, that I had seen on Sailing La Vagabonde (Super cool/super hot YouTube sailing couple) at the end of one of their episodes, but I put too much pasta inside the pouch had it ripped, so I had to do major damage control and we didn’t eat until 4pm, the pasta was still hard so I had to cook it for Aggggers!! Opps! :(.
I had the 11.30pm – 2.30am shift tonight. Not so bad 🙂 But I apparently didn’t take many photos for a few days….sorry…letting the team down 🙂
Day 4 : Friday 20th January 2017 (22:55 LONG – 28°17.0085, LAT – 155°56.877E, Direction 150°ES) : Woke up well rested from sleeping in the good bed, in the middle of the boat, that doesn’t smash up and down all night long, like my cabin at the bow. It was ideal for calm anchorage, I could sleep with the door closed! Privacy on a boat? Say what? But it sucks for straight sailing! No-one slept up there, unless the ocean was glassy and calm….
See image below : Right side – that is a fold over back rest, that holds you in place no matter what tack the boat is on. The left side bed is good too, so long as your sail is on the same side tack, (so the boat would be leaning to the left/port). On the Starboard tack however, you are pushed towards the table, which because I’m small I almost rolled under the table. We tried stuffing the gap with pillows, didn’t really do much…
Jemisons cabin at the stern, wasn’t ideal either, he would be thrown around all over the place, even reporting flying to the other side of the cabin and hitting his head, haha!
So we would all take turns in this bed, again to try to keep it fair! Technically it was Maya’s bed but sharing’s caring :).
Maya and I had a detailed chin wag, while we took our day shifts. She told me how she was the black sheep of her family, just as I was. She expressed her concerns regarding the struggles of living the way she does, like suffering relationships with good friends from always being away and roaming around. We talked about the sad state of affairs in regards to the treatment of woman in Fiji, Vanuatu, South America and the rest of the world (in our opinions). She shared tales of the things she had seen first-hand while sailing and hanging with locals in the pacific and I shared my experiences. They were scarily similar, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down?
Food : We try to always use whatever is going off first. So leaving things like onions, potatoes, kumera and pumpkin until last, because they keep for agers, pumpkin lasts forever!
- Breakfast – I cooked scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions, left over and heated up roasted herbed potato, English muffins with avocado and spinach for breakfast.
- Maya made a mixed vege salad for lunch.
- Jemison made a beautiful pumpkin and kumera (sweet potato) coconut cream curry for dinner.
Points of Sail lessons:
Jemison gave Maya and I some basic wind direction, sail direction and man over board lessons and showed us how the wind vane works. The wind vane would proof to be our forth crew member – steering the boat for us when we wanted to chill. It’s mentally tiring, following the compass course all night, so windy-woo mitigated that for us.
If you don’t know what a vine vane is – check out this website for a wee introduction – http://www.cruisingworld.com/sailing-with-windvane.
During the afternoon, it was Maya’s turn to steer so I sat on the deck, soaked up some sun rays, listened to music and drank a couple ciders, while J napped.
It started to rain in the evening, and even lighting which was exciting 🙂 Often when sailing it will be clear skies and sunshine and then the next day, or even only hours later – the polar opposite.
At 11pm – We put the autopilot on, turning on the noisy engine and took the sails in as we were only going 2 knots. Polar opposite 😛
Day 5 : (03:45 LONG – 28°28.326S, LAT – 157°51.545E, Direction 60°-90° NE, Wind Speed 20-25 knots)
Woke up at 7am to large swells again, asked J if he wanted me to take over at the helm – he didn’t. I tired to heat up J’s curry in the oven, but the wind was howling, we were going sideways so it spilled everywhere. Maya cleaned it up for me. Such a gem 🙂
Maya and I noted in a book for Jemison the best places to sail to in Fiji on a map, as he would be there in April 2017, and both Maya and I had previously sailed there for months on end.
I did some washing with our fresh water from the tank – didn’t think anything of it at the time – no-one did. But we would soon have to bath in salt water, because we didn’t keep a keen eye on our water usage.
Watched a movie on my grave yard night watch, 00:00 – 04:00 – “After the Flood” with Leonardo DiCaprio as the United Nations appointed spoke person for climate change, which reminded me why I was a vegetarian, and the effect our choices have on the earth.
Day 6 : (02:55 LONG – 27°45.716S, LAT – 160°06.491E, Direction 60°-90°NE, Wind Speed 15-20 knots, Close hauling all day and night)
Woke up at 7am to find Jemison hauling buckets of seawater up over the side of Wildline and into the cockpit as the fuel was leaking again. Jemison was angry because he hates the smell of fumes, makes him cranky lol, so I offered to do it for him while singing the song by Cypress Hill “I wanna get high, soooo high” – in an effort to lighten the mood. It worked 🙂 Ha! He soaped up the deck and I scrubbed it.
We all sat out in the cockpit today talking and taking turns at the helm. The shifts during the day weren’t set in stone, it’s whoever wants to take the wheel, takes it.
We all helped make flatbread pizza – minus the cheese for Maya. This was Jemisons signature dish. And you can see why!
I wanted to learn as much as possible from the seasoned sailor, so I requested to take him up on the offer of showing us how to tie the important knots needed for sailing. To which he was happy to show us – legend! We learnt a bowline, stopper knot, cleat knot, a toe hitch and a slip knot.
Sailing challenge set by Capitana Jemison : Master how to tie a bowline behind our backs by the time we reach NZ – in 6 days time (according to our schedule haha)!
We did it – I have videos to prove it :). It’s important to know how to do this in-case a raging storm at night hits you with 35 knot winds and you obviously can’t see a thing.
We were on fire today! Next we all helped make rice paper spring rolls for dinner! They were so tasty with the peanut dipping sauce, which is vegan! Ba bam!! 🙂
I went to sleep at 21:00 so I could get up for my 00.00 – 04:00 night watch, but Jemison woke me up with his snoring on the other side of the galley, so I slept outside in the cockpit with Maya, on watch. He said the next day that he “has never snored in his life” – but he definitely did! It sounded like a kettle whistle or a woman faintly screaming and then built up to a rumble. Haha!! It was my turn for the good/hot bed too…oh well lol.
Day 7 : (23:45 LONG – 26°59.0125, LAT – 161°16.560E, Direction 60° – 90° NE until tacked @ 23:00 to 130°SE)
Woke up at 10am as I had the grave yard shift night before, ate breaky, had my first shower in a few days, brushed my hair out on the deck (less cleaning of hair later the better), filed my nails and did general girl stuff 🙂 and practiced tying my knots.
The night before I had fallen asleep for the last ten minutes of my shift and Jemison caught me, when he came out to start his shift. Arrgh, I felt terrible! I explained to him I was definitely not asleep the whole time but I didn’t know if he believed me. They must have gossiped about it because Maya teased me saying “you know you’re not supposed to sleep while on duty”. Yeah, dork-ess, I know!! Lol! Then Jemison told me that he naps on and off while on night watch, setting an alarm at 20 minute intervals – so all good, I guess?
Made a yummy broccoli, onion, spinach and pesto pasta for dinner. I had the 20:00 – 00:00 shift tonight, I watched old movies from my travels and reminisced to pass the time.
Day 8 : Tuesday 24th January – Direction 100°SE (I think)
Woke up 7am to ask if Jemison wanted me to take over, or a coffee or cereal or anything? He said he was ok, but he was extremely grumpy. He asked if I could get him some wind? 😉 I went back to sleep for an hour as he said his shift finished at 8am, I didn’t argue..even though I was sure he had watched out for long enough. His boat! So when I woke up at 8am, and looked outside, about to get up to relive him, he gestured to me to NOT come outside, with a “cutting thoat” hand gesture and “shooting himself in the head” gesture. I was laughing on the inside 🙂 and went outside and offered my assistance anyway.
It is so bloody frustrating when there is literally not a lick of wind!! We all went a little crazy in our own ways.
In an attempt to cheer the capitana up – I said I would make scrambled eggs. He kindly asked me not to overcook them. (I knew he didn’t like them a few days back! My ex always used to tell me not to overcook them too.) So J showed me how you just fold them a couple of times and that’s how you make perfect scrambled eggs lol. You don’t stir them all the time, and you turn the heat off once they start to thicken, turning them gently under the remaining pans heat – now I know :P. They were apparently “fuc*ing good” today! Winner winner chicken period dinner 😉
I watched another thought provoking documentary, “If A Tree Fell”. It awakened an overwhelming urge to protest but who would listen in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean?
My mum turned 60 today, so I called her to wish her a happy birthday using Jemison’s Satellite phone. I was hoping to make it to her party in Whanganui, New Zealand (my home town) on Saturday night – but I knew there was no way we would even reach Opua by then, but at-least I got to talk to her on her 60th birthday! Shout out to Jemison – Cheers for letting me do that mate! I know those things aren’t cheap! I did keep it short though 🙂
Maya sat outside and read her book all day. She cooked Aloo Gobi vegan curry for dinner (potato and cauliflower), it was awesome! Jemison played a trick on me while I was washed the dishes and gave me a fright, so I flicked him with the tea towel, but I accidentally got him in the crutch area!! Opps! I apologized profusely for flicking him in the jewels! It was an accident!! Haha!
Watched the bright and beautiful stars, the milky way was phenomenal! I’d sorely missed this side of the worlds constellations! I tried to get a photo, but nope – was just for us!
Day 9 : (LONG – 29°26.224S, LAT – 163°08.193E, Direction 100°SE)
Literally no wind today! Water was like glass, not even one little ripple so we had the motor and autopilot on all day and night.
All three of us cleaned the galley as it was getting pretty messy! From bottom to top, wall to wall.
The plus side to 0.00 wind = Turning the motor off and going for a swim! In 4000m deep blue glassy heavenly water! Perfect for taking a dip anyway! We couldn’t play around too much though as the boat was still slowly moving. We threw a rope of the stern, to grab onto, just in-case.
Today was hands down the best day of the voyage so far!! We cracked open some cider brews and then sank some rum and vitamin juice and then rum and ginger beer when we ran out of the juice.
We took some more killer sailing shots, one for the memories and made light out of being stranded in the middle of the Tasman Sea. I didn’t mind a bit, where else would I wanna be? In a house? In an office? In a box? Naaaar!
Jemison called his girlfriend back in The States to check in with her, I sunbathed and did yoga, and the others felt they needed some movement too, so we all got a little active. You really have to get creative with the way you keep in shape/stretched/fit on a boat making an international crossing. I found a little spot in the cockpit I could do yoga in any conditions, but only a few postures. Lucky today we were steady enough to do it on the deck – so much space!
We didn’t drink all night, we still had to do our night watches so we stopped at 22:30, and heated up some left over Aloo Gobi and rice, and debated life on the dark side of the moon. The documentary “New Moon Rising” might have come up 🙂
I had the 00:00 shift so I was still a little buzzed but sober enough to keep watch till 03:00. Jemison advised that if we got 16 knots of wind or if the wind changed from 30° or 60° or anything in between to wake him up as it would be enough wind to put the sails up.
I didn’t go to sleep until 04:00 because I was having such an intense moment of bliss, buzzing under the milky way, not a care in the world, exactly where I wanted and loved to be – sailing! This was the pinnacle, so far! The half way point – just to keep us interested!
Coming soon – 17 Days Roaming the Tasman Sea – Sailing SV Wildline – Part II