Last fall, when I was home in Canada, I had the opportunity to help my oldest nephew out with a school project.
As a grade nine student Cameron was looking for someone to job shadow for a day. Usually this means going to work with a parent, but as he had already spent time with his Dad at the office I suggested that if he wanted to experience something new I would be happy to share my typical work day with him. To my surprise he jumped at the opportunity to get a glimpse inside the life of a writer.
To give him a real feel for what it’s like be self-directed and self-motivated I suggested that he could write a blog post for this site, as long as it related to boating. Cameron, an outside-the-box thinker, quickly came up with the idea to compare his family’s summer experience living in the camper, which they sometimes loving refer to as their “Land Yacht”, with our life on board. I asked him to read through a couple of blogs posts to get a feel for what he would be writing and told him we would start work at 9am the next morning.
We set up shop at the kitchen table and each started writing; Cam his blog post and me an upcoming article. For two hours, except for the clicking of laptop keys and the odd question or comment, the room was quiet. We broke for a quick snack (I raided Cam’s Hallowe’en treat bag) and then it was another couple hours of work before we stopped for a picnic lunch outside on the deck.
Exciting news! This arrived in the mail this week!!
It seems appropriate that my submission was an article about Vanuatu, a place I have described as my “unicorn of the South Pacific”, as I had to wait 8 long years before we finally sailed into Port Villa Harbour. The wait, however, was certainly worth it. Vanuatu and it’s people captured our hearts.
Published in Cruising Helmsman, Black Sands, Black Magic; Vanuatu by Sail was described by judge Gary Beckett as, “A compelling, detailed and at times riveting first-hand account of the writer’s adventures cruising waters of the Vanuatu Islands chain.”
You can find the complete listing of winners for all 17 categories in the Boat Writers International Writing competition HERE. (You’ll also find me under Seamanship, Rescue & Safety, Merit Award.)
There is an old sailors mantra that says you should always step up into the liferaft, or in other words abandoning the vessel should be the very last resort. We had a chance to inspect our Viking life raft when we had it serviced in Fiji. Sitting inside the small, orange inflatable compartment was sobering; we would be expecting a bouncy castle to save our lives. However, your life raft deserves some consideration, so take a few minutes to read about the Small Boat for Big Emergencies.
A ditch bag is boat speak for the last thing you grab before abandoning said ship and the first you should review before leaving port on a passage. So, What’s in you ditch bag? Find out what’s in mine by reading that one.
A few solar gadgets will never go astray during an emergency, and can make everyday life on board a little more emjoyable too. I tested a few and wrote about them for Blue Water Sailing.
Hot days beg for cold beer, but many sailors struggle with the refrigeration unit on board. Want to know how to keep your cool and learn how the fridge works? Check out my September column in BWS, includes a delicious recipe for Leftover Rice Salad!
Or, maybe you are curious about the difference between an alcohol stove and an LPG stove on a boat, and want some tips about using them safely, whether at anchor or at sea. Cruising Helmsman in Australia published an article about that in October. You can read it here.
Looking for a way to keep fit and have fun onboard?
In my June BWS column, Heather Francis Onboard, I talk about how to stay fit afloat. If you missed it on the news stands you can check it out here, or get a digital subscription via Zinio and never miss an issue.
We are preparing to to set sail to the Philippines in a few days. Meals are cooked, cabin in stowed and we have a keen eye on the weather. But it is always a little difficult to prepare for passage because you’re never really sure what lies ahead.
As we ready ourselves for sea I thought I would post my notes from our passage from Kavieng to Palau. While underway I keep a daily dairy; a page of notes that sums up the events, conditions and feelings of the past 24 hours. If you want an idea about what being on passage is really like this should give it to you. These are not well-groomed or thought out notes, just reflections and reaction about the goings on as we are experiencing them. Here’s an excerpt:
“Dec 15, Day 8: We managed to sail all night, but the winds lightened up after midnight and things got wet before day break. Morning watch was a boisterous ride. Grey all day, just impenetrable walls of grey. Winds NW-NE 10-30kts. We have been able to sail a more westerly course between 275-300◦. Close hauled all morning, of course, but making 6-7kts. The winds were fickle for Steve, abruptly changing direction and turning off as if someone flicked a switch. I made a hot lunch of “Steve Famous Gumbo” from cans and leftovers in the fridge. Rains increased during the afternoon and I sat my watch reefing and furling, seeing the boat speed eek to 8kts. Soaked to the bone and cold by 1800 we were both happy to be putting some miles under the keel. Winds continued through Steve’s evening watch and the rains finally stopped, brighter skies and moon light for me! Cold still, foulies and fleece on tonight despite being at 3◦N. Hoping we have made enough ground north to find the NE trades and progress to Palau can be made in earnest. Dahl for dinner. Port window leaking onto the bunk. Everything feeling clammy after a week of hot bunking. No shower today. Fresh veggies finished.”
If you’re interested in reading the complete blow-by-blow of our 20 day passage you can find it HERE. Safe Sailing!
We just left the world of inflatable dinghies after a very frustrating and costly few years dealing with our problematic Takacat.
The Takacat and the ongoing problems of the seams coming unglued.
There will be more info about our experience and disappointments coming up, as well as our reflections on our new hard dinghy from Porta-bote.
The New Dinghy!
But if you’re still in the blow up boat camp and are looking for a good start of the season project check out my how-to article about making a pair of stylish and practical dinghy chaps for your inflatable, as appeared in Cruising World Magazine in March 2017.
Don’t believe it is bad luck to leave port on a Friday? Well, six years ago we tested the theory when we departed from Isla Coco’s and sailed to the Galapagos Islands. The passage was one of our worst!
If you’re near a news stand Down Under you can trip down memory lane with us and read all about our (mis)adventures in the March issue of Cruising Helmsman Magazine.
Considering inviting friends or family to visit you while you’re out sailing? Read all about how to plan and prepare so everyone has a good time while onboard in my latest BWS column. Pick up the October issue of Blue Water Sailing on news stands now! Or pickup a digital subscription on Zinio.com