Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Look Back on Our Adventure

First things first, Happy Holidays to everyone out there who has been following our blog over the years!! We have really enjoyed sharing our adventure with you all, and wish you and yours all the best in the new year!

After two years of being sea gypsies, Anne-Marie and I are back in Canada and starting to settle in to life as landlubbers. It has been an amazing two years, filled with a lot of emotional highs, lows and lessons learned. We would like to recap some interesting figures and lessons learned from our journey, in the hopes that it may help those who follow in our wake.

NOTE: Your mileage will vary, but hopefully you will find this information 
interesting and helpful for your own preparations. If you have any questions
we would be happy to try and answer them.
Anne-Marie and I at our first stop in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas! Look how unstained our clothes were back then.
Decisions We Were Happy About
  • Spending a Year in Mexico - Anne-Marie and I both agree the best decision we made was to spend a year in Mexico before doing the Puddle Jump. After all the countries we have visited, Mexico still remains our favorite for several reasons. The amount of time we spent there allowed us to really get to know the people and places well, at a very relaxed pace. Compared to how quickly we had to rush through the countries of the South Pacific, it was impossible to build the same affection which we hold for Mexico. Generally sailing in Mexico was easy, especially in the Sea of Cortez (granted a lot of the time is motoring unless you are really hardcore), with short hops between amazing anchorages, it was easy to find secluded spots.
  • Not Getting a Water Maker - With our tankage (100G) and conservative use, it was not a problem at all to not have a water maker. It would have been a luxury item for sure, with the cost of additional power drain and the need for additional solar power, wind generator, or honda generator to compensate (or engine hours). The main hassle was just carting water to the boat since we rarely went to a dock. It would allow for more freedom though if you planned to stay in someplace like the Tuamotus for extended periods of time.
  • Not Replacing our Bent Boom - The boom was bent when we bought the boat, and it served us well across the south Pacific, despite our initial concerns before leaving San Francisco. UPDATE: We have since learned the new owner of Starship broke the boom. We were always very cautions, reefing early and often.
  • Having a Third Crew Member for the Puddle Jump - Having a third set of hands onboard for the jump from Mexico to the Marquesas made a huge difference. Jonathan was the best crew member also, and we were super happy with how it all worked out.

One of many amazing anchorages you can often have all to yourself in the Sea of Cortez
What We Would Do Differently
  • Not Fly a Spinnaker at Night! - That ended poorly for us, and could have been much worse.
  • Go to Vanuatu - We heard nothing but great things from people who paid Vanuatu a visit.
  • Minimize Time in the Societies - We would just re-provision in Tahiti and head straight for the Cook Islands. Especially since we were doing a single season crossing, our time would have been better spent in Tonga or Fiji. That being said...
  • Spend More than One Season Crossing! - I'm attempting to coin a term "Single Season Syndrome" or SSS for short. It seems nearly ever cruiser we met who was trying to get to Australia in a single season was totally exhausted and just wanting to be done with the trip. From what we can tell, it seemed as though we had a rougher year, weather-wise, than usual across the Pacific, which may be partially responsible for cases of SSS. In a perfect world we would spend a season just in the Marqueses and Tuamotus and haul the boat in the Tuamotus for the cyclone season. A year or two in the Tonga/Fiji area would also be a worthwhile use of time. Unfortunately for us we didn't have the ability or desire (because of SSS) to extend for a third year.
For further proof of the cause of Single Season Syndrom (SSS) refer to the following charts (everybody loves pretty charts right?):

Where we spent out nights during in the South Pacific. Includes the day we shoved off in Mexico up until the day we set foot on Australian soil.
Figure 2: Where we spent our nights during our time in Mexico. Includes from when we shoved off in San Francisco to the day we left on the Puddle Jump.
Notice in Figure 1 we spent 27% of our South Pacific Time crossing on passages! No wonder we developed a case of SSS. This is one strong reason to have a faster boat. Our friends Hydroquest on their First 40 calculated they spent about 21% on passage, which is still quite a lot. Contrast that with Figure 2, where we took a "vacation" from cruising for 22% of our time in Mexico, leaving the boat in storage. This amount of downtime really made our time in Mexico that much more enjoyable.

The Statistics
  • Total Nautical Miles Travelled ~ 12000 nm
  • Number of times we plugged the boat into Shore Power = 0! Last time we plugged in was in San Diego, thanks to our 270W of solar.
  • Number of nights in a Marina or at a Dock ~ 20 (we hate marinas): 7 days for Puddle Jump preparations, 5 days when guests were visiting, and only 2 days in the South Pacific.
  • Number of nights at Sea ~ 79 (60 for the South Pacific Season, 19 during our time in Mexico)
  • Number of nights at Anchor ~ 420 (121 for the South Pacific Season, 299 during our time in Mexico)
  • Number of nights Boat was in Storage ~ 96
  • Number of nights on a Mooring ~ 46 (only during the South Pacific Season)
Most Exciting Personal Accomplishments
Learning to Surf
Learning to Spearfish
Repairing our diesel engine oil leak
Learning Spanish! Thanks Vincente, our hotdog vender in La Paz!
Repairing and outfitting Starship for offshore cruising
Some of Our Favorite Experiences

Our tattoos in the Marquesas! And meeting Felix the local tattoo artist.
Amazing sunsets and sunrises
All the amazing sea life we saw first hand!
One thing which is often not mentioned, but is a huge part of the cruising lifestyle, is all the amazing people you meet along the way. Not only local people, but fellow cruisers as well really make the journey special!
Manuel Sr & Jr from the Sea of Cortez 
Aqua Verde school kids swam out to Starship to go skurfing
Anne-Marie with Shelly from Born Free - We missed you guys on the crossing!
Charlie the Suwarrow park ranger
Poppy & Rosanna from Lolo - Poppy so kind to "share mama & blanket with Annie"  
Teddy, Poppy & Rosanna from Lolo - Our adopted family
Will and Sarah from Hydroquest! More than fair weather friends as seen here.
More Pretty Charts
Figure 3: Relative sizes of our passages from San Francisco to Mexico and within Mexico
Figure 4: Relative amount of time we spent at different islands during the Pacific crossing. Less time in the Societies and more in Tonga/Fiji would have been a better plan. 
Figure 5: Relative amount of time spent on the major Pacific crossing passages. If you boat is faster you can get the total days down, but the percentages should be similar.

Favorite Countries/Island Groups
  1. Mexico - Will always hold a special place in our hearts!
  2. Fiji - We would have loved to have spent a few seasons in Fiji. It reminded us in a lot of ways of Mexico, beautiful anchorages and super friendly people.
  3. Suwarrow (Cook Islands) - A very worthwhile pitstop on the way to Tonga (or Samoa)!
  4. Vavau Group (Tonga) - There is a lot to love about Tonga! Friendly locals, short hops between anchorages, great snorkeling and kitesurfing.
  5. Tuamotus - Another spot we would have liked to have spent more time. Amazing kitesurfing, snorkeling and secluded anchorages.
  6. Marquesas - Great place to make landfall after 24 days! Would spend more time here if we did it again.
  7. New Caledonia - Didn't get to explore New Caledonia as much as we would have liked since we were selling Starship, but we enjoyed what we did see.
  8. Societies (Huahine was our favorite) - Perhaps they didn't live up to all their hype, but they were our least favorite.
** Just a coincidence that all the French Territories are at the bottom of the list?? Our French speaking friends seemed to enjoy these countries a lot more.

Favorite Cruising Gear
  • Rigid Bottom Inflatable Dinghy (Compact RIB 310, liked it a lot except for rowing)
  • 4 Stroke 9.9HP Outboard - Great to have quite rides in the dinghy when compared to 2 stroke, also smells less and more fuel efficient!
  • Hydrovane! - We were really happy with the performance of the Hydrovane on our trip. It would have been much more stressful from a power usage perspective without it, and worrying about an autopilot failure.
  • 270W of Solar Panels - For our usage this was usually perfect! We only had to run the engine for power a few times when it was excessively cloudy for long periods of time. We ran the fridge for our entire trip without power issues. If we had a water maker more solar would have been needed or a generator.
  • Battery Monitor (Xantrex Link Pro) - Really help you to get a handle on your power usage situation.
  • Jiggle Tubes! - Revolutionized our fuel and water tank filling
  • SSB Radio with Pactor Modem - Being able to email everyday with family was really great for us, especially on passages, not to mention the benefits for weather forecasts. We also really enjoyed the SSB nets, which was a pleasant surprise.
In Conclusion
Stay focussed on your dream and make it happen!
Aim for the stars!
Get out of your comfort zone!
Chart your own course!
"Live Your Best Life!"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Brisbane to Sydney - The Most Dangerous Leg

We are happy to inform you that we have survived the most challenging leg of our journey to date - the road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. Not having driven in 2 years, combined with driving on the left side of the road made for a very exciting road trip. The most common problem is that the turn signal and windshield wipers were reversed, which I never fully got the hang of.

There is not much else to be said about our trip down the coast except that it was stunning! We both really loved the vibe of the small surf towns we stopped at on our way down the coast. The scenery was always spectacular, reminding us a lot of the drive down Highway 1 in California. Trying to avoid the tourist traps we stopped at some less popular towns, such as Lennox Head and Port Macquarie. It is a shame we only had three weeks in Australia, we could have easily spent 3 weeks in each stop getting to know the towns and surf breaks!
Lennox Head Cliff Walk
One of many surf breaks at Port Macquarie
Words to live by - One of Anne-Marie and Katrina's favourite quote
Port Macquarie light house
Once we got close to Sydney we met up with our good friends on Lolo and Hydroquest to celebrate our successful completion of the crossing and say farewell. We spent one night aboard Lolo as they were preparing to put Lolo on the market in Pittwater. It was great to see them all again, but sad to say goodbye. The next night we stayed on Hydroquest in Manly. We ate a nice meal aboard Hydroquest and watched a movie on their cozy settee. How nice it was to spend a night at anchor again. The next morning we went on a short but exciting sail with them from Manly over to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, where they had a mooring booked for a few nights. The weather didn't quite cooperate but it was great to be underway again.
Sailing in the rain
I wonder what was so interesting...
Annie takes the helm
Passing in front of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
The next stop on our road trip was Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We enjoyed several amazing hikes around the cliff edge overlooking the Blue Mountains. I would describe it as a cross between the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. The Blue Mountains name seemed a bit deceiving since it was more a valley than a mountain from our perspective, but none the less it was beautiful!
Overlooking a small part of the valley
Much greener than the Grand Canyon
Nice trails 

Anne-Marie looking cool 
Bridal Veil Falls - very Yosemite like
Leura Cascades
Our last stop was Sydney downtown before flying home the next day. Downtown Sydney definitely challenged our left side of the road driving skills, especially since we always seemed to drive around at lunch hour when there was tons of pedestrian traffic. Luckily we made it in and out of hotel parking garage unscathed, and had a great time exploring the downtown.
What a great way to end our journey!
It was quite a nostalgic flight home, as our flight path took us right over Noumea New Caledonia, we waved farewell to Starship. Our flight had a short stop over in San Francisco, and as we flew in we could see our old stomping grounds out the window. We flew right over top of Half Moon Bay, and could see the harbor that we left from with Kyle Lefaive almost exactly two years ago. It's interesting to think back on those early days, how much we have learned and experienced since that cold January day, that we shoved off into the unknown. It took us nearly two years to sail over the horizon, only 13 hours to come back, but the memories will last a lifetime.

For some more pictures of our Australia adventure, checkout our picasa album here: