Saturday, December 31, 2011

A (Mostly) Happy End to 2011

It’s taken me a while to start typing this blog as I’m not really sure what to say, even after being home for nearly a week. We’re trying to take re-entry slowly, keeping a pace familiar to boaters in which we don’t schedule too much, we don’t rush too much, and we enjoy our time together just ‘hanging’.

The first thing that struck me was how good it is to be back. We live in perhaps one of the best places in the world. There is no doubt something special about blue skies and sunshine (even if the air feels a bit crispy) that lifts one’s spirit. The scenery is spectacular (I reached my favorite spot on my favorite hike today which showcases the mountains and the bay). And my community here is like none other. I love my friends. Period.

Next, I am trying not to be too overwhelmed by all the activity. Sounds a bit trite to say, but there are a lot of cars on the roads (I’m driving steadily again after 2.5 years). I am connected to internet and cell phones again, and people really expect that you will respond instantaneously to emails and calls. I do not have texting, and at this point don’t anticipate getting it – that would simply send me over the top. Going from technology disconnect to being connected again is perhaps the biggest adjustment. And there is so much to buy. Shopping has a much different perspective when one lives on a small boat; there's not much room for anything more than what you really need, and that is refreshing.

As for my kids, they are forced to take re-entry slowly, since many of their friends are away this break. Danielle, although a bit nervous, is elated to be home and anticipating being with a steady flow of kids with a giddiness I haven’t seen in a long time. Harrison is a bit more anxious, and I’m assuming this is because he was so young when we left that he’s really not sure what to expect. They’ve spent hours watching TV, and have even been okay going shopping for clothes (which they had very few of upon arrival).

In many ways, we are returning; in other ways, we are the new kids and things seem a bit strange.

As for Whatcha Gonna Do, our home for the last 2.5 years, I do miss her and the way she took care of us -something we tend to take for granted when we live in a house. What I do not miss is the waking in the middle of almost every night to close hatches or listen for an odd sound. And I am enjoying my showers and non-marine-type toilets. I am looking forward to some routine, especially once school starts next Tuesday, we move back into our house sometime next week, and Michael rejoins us stateside in a couple of weeks.

But I will sadly miss many friends, the lifestyle and adventure travel we have been so fortunate to have grown so accustomed to.

Happy 2012 to all of our family and our friends, new and old. We thank you for following our adventures with us, but the next chapter is just beginning. I can't wait to see what this year brings.


from Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Things that make me happy

Hiking in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales


What makes me happy has been on my mind lately as I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project about a year in the author's life in which she consciously takes on things that she hopes will make her happier.  She spends January focusing on getting to sleep earlier, exercising more, and cleaning out her closets, all in the hopes that they will boost her energy (they do).  In February she focuses on doing things to improve her relationship with her husband, including trying not to expect so much acknowledgment (it doesn't work).  And so on.  The book demonstrates an interesting way of approaching what I call not the search for happiness but rather fulfillment, that state of being in which you are feeling at the top of your game. 

The topic has also had me thinking loads lately as we prepare to re-enter regular life after almost two and a half years of living on the fringe.  It's important that we map it out carefully to make it as smooth as possible for us all. A few weeks back my friend Diane posed the question to several of us:  What do we want to take back to regular life that we've gained while on this journey?  For many who take on an adventure like ours, the trip is a conscious effort to get away from a life in which work reigns, family time is rare, and stress is too great, and so it's clear what they are wanting to last into their life on land after their respective journeys are over.  It made me realize that I really loved my life before we left.  Sure I had my own share of issues day-to-day, but I've worked really hard at creating a life in which I took care of my needs and I worked to my strengths. I would consciously work on anything that wasn't 'working for me' and improve it with single step actions.   

If the truth be told, and while I loved this trip and wouldn't have missed it for the world, the last 9 months have been challenging.  The problem was that I had focused so much on being in the moment and catering to everyone else's needs that I forgot about my own.  Don't get me wrong. It's been incredible.  But I have, in the midst of it, forgotten about so many of the things that I must have in my life in order to feel fulfilled and happy.  


And so when we spent 3 of the last 5 days hiking in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, it was exhilarating to realize that hiking makes me so happy. I'll have to be sure to remember this as we settle back into life on land.

Other areas that will need to be worked to get back to that place of fulfillment:  Alone time with Michael.  Looking after myself with exercise, and taking alone time.  Getting my career back on track. Do Yoga.  Stop complaining. Go to sleep earlier.  Avoid clutter.   

Once home, even little steps toward these goals will surely make me happy. And I'm already happy about the plan.

Still on the road, now in Brisbane, will be back on the boat in Mooloolaba in a couple of days
And booked to be home with the kids on December 25
Michael to follow in January

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


We’ve been in Aussie-land for nearly a month now and are loving it.  Other than all the rules, it feels fairly familiar and civilized.  It’s been so long since we’ve written that I’ll write a quick re-cap of where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing.

The first week in Bundaberg, of course, was spent cleaning up the boat, getting rid of clutter, and lots of washing.  It had been about 8 months since we’ve been on a dock with unlimited dock water to be able to do this.  Plus, we are anticipating our sending things home, so it was time to unload anything that is no longer of any use, or that has just fallen apart a bit too much.  Remember that marine life is hard on everything – any clasps, buckles, or other metal pieces on clothing or shoes will rust or tarnish.  Our toaster oven became an eyesore with all the rust and knobs had fallen off.  It was time to send it to the toaster oven heaven in the sky. Much of our clothes have seen better days or heavily outgrown.  Cutlery has rusted.  Books have gone un-read or in need of letting go. 

By the way, we wouldn’t recommend making landfall in Bundaberg.  While you can save money on entry fees by joining the Port to Port Rally, you spend more than that at the marina.  Anchoring out is not much of an option since dinghy fees are $25 per day (and STRICTLY enforced – our friends who came to our boat for dinner were practically chased down for parking their dinghy at our boat), and the river currents make it uncomfortable anyway.  The marina is in the middle of nowhere, and while there are free shuttles to the town, the return is on limited and inconvenient bus service, and the town is certainly less than exciting. After we left, the marina insisted on getting our credit card number to charge for a stamp (less than a $1) for forwarding a letter to us. Bundaberg is a sad place for an Australian welcome.

Nonetheless, highlights included our rendez-vous with good friends, the Port to Port Rally events which were well done and a-plenty, as well as seeing live kangaroos in the wild – they live across the street from the marina.
Dingo in the surf on Fraser Island

Fraser Island
Next we moved on with the boat down to Mooloolaba, about an hour’s car drive north of Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast.  Our trip down included an amazing stop at Fraser Island, the longest sand island in the world.  We rented a 4 wheel drive, the only way to get around on the island, and saw wild dingoes, spectacular beaches, and gorgeous rainforests (the only place in the world where rainforest grows on sand).  That one deserves a blog in and of itself, but included driving for miles along the beach, getting stuck a couple of times in the sand, helping others who had gotten stuck, some cool hikes, drifting down the freshest water creek I’ve ever seen (the kids were drinking it the whole way down), seeing a wreck, swimming in pure rainwater lakes, and more.

Michael and his koala friend

Baby croc

Cute roos
Our boat is now docked in Mooloolaba, a beach town through and through.  The weather is perfect, the beaches are gorgeous with huge surf, the boardwalk runs forever and the stores are, well, enticing.  While in Mooloolaba, we visited the famous Steve Irwin’s Australian Zoo (Steve Irwin is the crocodile guy who died a few years ago from a bat ray harpoon to the heart).  We fed kangaroos, petted koalas, jumped with wallabees, touched crocs.  Amazing zoo and highly recommended.  Again, a blog in and of itself – if only there were time…

Kids and David (note licence plate)

Bubby's happy to see the kids!

Then on to Sydney where Michael’s mom was going to be for a few short days on a tour of Australia.  We  got here in about 12 hours of driving and are staying at an apartment so can do most of our own cooking.  Saw Fagel (Michael’s mom) and Annette (her friend and travelling companion) for only a day and a half but got in some good ‘bubby’ time and caught up over dinners, touring and wine. We also have been hanging out with our good friend from home David Arfin who happens to be here at the same time.  What luck!  We also had dinner with our friend Behan of s/v Totem who was our guru on the Pacific crossing as her family did it last year and are now live-aboards in Sydney (soon to be Brisbane). 

Highlights of our trip to Sydney: Walking through the incredible historic buildings that now house shopping arcades, the Town Hall, and other venues. Walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then visiting the South Pylon Museum. Opera House Tour – we got to watch a part of a ballet rehearsal for Romeo and Juliette.  Visiting the Fish Market, the world’s second largest only after Tokyo, where we had great fish and chips.  The Maritime Museum was a hit with the four ships and submarine we could board.  The Jewish Museum is extremely well done, with a history of the Jews of Australia, which pretty much parallels Australia’s own history, and where we heard a Holocaust survivor speak.  We visited the Great Synagogue built in the late 1800’s and attended Friday night services, but then after that and the Jewish Museum, its tour was disappointing (although the building itself is worth a visit).  We spent an afternoon at Bondi Beach, famous for its surf and people watching.  The Barracks Museum gave us insight into how early convicts lived.  When visiting the New South Wales Parliament, we got to go into both Houses since they are on recess now.  Perhaps the highlight for the kids was the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum - Danielle is happier than I’ve ever seen her.  We’ve tried to get out sailing on the Bay but it’s been cold and raining…
We’ve been busy, and have been walking a ton.  Tomorrow we’ll head to the Blue Mountains for a couple of days and then head north again along the Gold Coast and then the Sunshine Coast back to the boat where boxes await packing up.

Will try to keep up on the blog more regularly…

-Barb from Sydney
With no clue what my latitude and longitude is but not feeling lost!