Sunday, 20 October 2013

WE'RE BACK! And it was "The Trip of a Lifetime!"

At anchor in the breathtaking lagoon of  Panasia island.
I've just been reading my last blog - entered about 5 weeks ago before we sailed away to the wonderful Louisiades - and, although I remember my trepidation vividly, I'm so very very glad I/we experienced the rally's outstanding adventure!   We met so many wonderful people on the other rally yachts and made friendships I hope and believe will last for many years to come.  I am truly grateful that I had enough good friends & family to encourage me to get over my fears and get out there and DO IT!

We've been back in Australian waters since the early hours of Thursday morning.  The anchor came up at 6:30 am on Sunday, October 13 and we set off for Australia from the island of Nimoa.  The sail back was great - in sailing terms... the wind never blew over 24 knots and the sea was calm -  we covered the 520 or so nautical miles in 4 days.  Since our arrival in Cairns we've been busy but the memories are still vivid and, even with the sheer pleasure of being in a place with stores and phones and internet - and solid ground - the pictures in my mind keep coming back when I least expect them.

The Captain is injured.  On the last day there was a planned soccer game between the yachties and the locals.  Just picture this ... a team of "older" (well some of them) white men playing against a team of 16 and 17 year old local boys ... it was to say the least exciting!  Determined to score, my Captain even brought his Scotland t-shirt to wear!  Well, he did score a goal but in the process of trying to score another tore his Achilles tendon - badly.  We sailed back with him in considerable pain and even had to execute a mid-ocean crew transfer from another boat to help us get the boat back - more on that in another blog!  My Captain is currently in a cast up to his knee and on crutches!  Which means getting the boat and ourselves back to Sydney is going to be a lot less simple than hoped.

I know I'll talk about this for a long time to come - and over a lot more blog posts!  But here are the standout things that come to mind first.....

Me, at the wheel underway.  I had just been hit in the side of the head by a rogue wave over the
 side...straight into my head, drenched!  Good to laugh.

Making Passage on the Ocean - It is so strange and disconcerting to be at sea.  For days there is nothing - absolutely NOTHING - to gain any kind of idea about your location.  If it wasn't for the GPS and the charts the mariner wouldn't know anything.  No matter where you look there is only water - and, of course, the changing sky - but really just water.  Also, so far away from land, you don't see many birds and the only sea creatures we saw were flying fish.  There are big sea birds that come at night and fly around the boat.  Sometimes they catch a ride on the back of the solar panels and stay there for hours.  They shit indiscriminately - the windows, sails, transom, anywhere! - and then fly away to return again tomorrow night.  The flying fish sometimes make a fatal error and land on the boat.  Once, during a radio "sked" a larger one smashed hard into the cockpit leaving us with a rather smelly splash point to clean up.  Passage making is also - to me - rather boring and frustrating.  On a small sailing boat the time and miles pass slowly and the constant rolling waves make it difficult to move around, eat or sleep.  I'm glad I experienced a magnificent ocean crossing but I don't think I want to do it again any time soon!

The villages are a collection of grass huts on the shore.  This was a larger village on the island of Sabara.

The People of the Louisiades Islands - The people who eke out a living on the islands of this remote archipelago have NOTHING!  No running water, no electricity, no transportation, no communication with the outside world, very little support from the PNG government and very little medical or education support ... nothing that we, in the develop world, would expect in even the most basic way.  Yet, they have so much dignity.  They welcomed the rally boats with open arms - smiling and laughing and hugs.   Guy Chester, who created the rally and runs it superbly, must be a God to these people.  He brings them supplies he's cajoled during the year - clothes, school and medical supplies - and he makes sure the yachts that come with the rally are loaded to the brim with more supplies.  Moving to a new island anchorage you can expect to see dugout canoes start to appear from the coast line...often with women and their children - sometimes men and children alone ... coming out to trade.  They have coconuts or pumpkins to trade for a t-shirt or bag of sugar or sewing kit and other times they have huge crayfish (like lobsters but no claws)....the biggest, most beautiful crayfish, and most delicious I think I've ever seen or eaten!

Just inside the limestone cave.  Then you have to walk/climb down further and around to the surprising fresh water swimming hole.

Our Adventures - There were so many things we did that were like something out of a film!  We went to caves filled with skulls, climbed into a limestone crevice that opened into a huge cave with a fresh swimming hole at it's base, went down a jungle river and experienced an armed robbery and kidnapping!  These I'll save until next time because there's so much more to tell!!!

I think you get the picture - we had an amazing time!  I'm so glad I did this - we did this.  All the worry and fear amounted to nothing.  More tomorrow!!!


  1. George's accident will make you Captain Gail now, welcome to the club :) glad you are back to the mainland but next time we will have to sort out your coms better 5 weeks with no messages is too long :)

  2. Hey Robert! I'm not so sure I want to be a captain! Yes, I know, 5 weeks is way too long. It was awful being on our end as well and not know whatwas happening and not being able to tell anyone about anything.

  3. You started off on the wrong foot and George finished up on the wrong foot! Glad you are home (well almost) and safe!

  4. Gail great blogging I sent the link to Maggie because I wanted her to read a woman's perspective on the trip. I love your descriptions of the people and places better still is your personal and sometimes emotional dimension to your narrative. Tell George his pics are great. I am so pleased to have met you all. I know that we now have a life long connection based on a shared adventure.

    Please keep me informed about your trip south. I still would like to join you if Eclipse will let me.

    Again bless your cotton socks for taking the time to write about this adventure.
    Big Hugs
    S/Y Eclipse