Juno

“Talk to your friend Brian, the broker. He knows a lot and can give you an idea of what you’re looking for”, John said to me before pulling out of Nanny Cay.  I wasn’t sure I really was ‘looking’ but the gods answered that for me when not 5 minutes later Brian pulled over: “Need a ride back to Trellis?”

We started talking boats… Brian always talks boats… and pretty soon I was mumbling something about being interested in buying one myself. “Seriously?” He took his eyes off the road to pose the question. “Uh, maybe, possibly, seriously?” I winced, knowing what was coming.

“Well, you must have heard about Juno!?”

I hadn’t. But John and I had tacked past her that very morning, commenting on her pretty lines. John said “I bet that’s a Cape Dory”. He knew my love for Cape Dory’s and had a keen eye for spotting them when I was on board. So yes, Juno was a Cape Dory, and she was moored right there in Trellis Bay, just outside my hut’s window.

How hadn’t I noticed her before? She was suddenly the cutest little boat in the bay and that I’d ever laid eyes on. I stood on the beach, digging my toes into the sand, gazing out at her, my heart skipping along to a thousand potential adventures. I borrowed a kayak and paddled out. Around once, twice, four times. Trying to take in every detail… A nick in the toe-rail (my, she’s pretty!), hairline cracks at the bow (so cute and compact!), worn out sails (just look at those curves!)… and decided she was in relatively good condition.

I paddled back to shore, dumped the kayak, grabbed a mask and swam out. Again, going around and around, my heart pumping. I had heard that to know if a boats ever going to work for you, when walking away, you should have to turn back and look again. I swam back three times.

From the beach, she was close. Then I got offered a boat-sitting job – the Columbia 43 moored RIGHT next to Juno. In the morning I woke up to dreams of her, at night I fell asleep imagining our journeys together. For 8,000 dollars (a loan), I could sail her away. I knew I would be giving up the freedom of lightweight travel, I knew I would be buying into a life of debts and bills (a boat’s just a hole in the water you throw money into)… but I could taste the sweetness of having my very own sailing queen, I could already feel the wind that would blow us around the world.

I waited for time to point me in the right direction. I made lists, I spoke to people, I checked her over again and again, inside and out. I learnt about her strengths, her weaknesses.  And finally, I decided to make an offer – next week.

The Sunday before that next week began, a road forked in my plans. Johan, a Swedish delivery captain needed crew for a sail up to Newport, Rhode Island, via Bermuda, in a 59ft Hinckley. A paid job. Leaving tomorrow. To the North East coast, my original coast-coast bike beginning. Shit.

Life will throw you so many choices and questions – the only way to answer them is to follow the signs. This felt like the right thing to do. The path was clear. I sailed off into the sunset, two days later, on a much bigger, much fancier boat that I will ever own… and Juno stayed, bobbing along on her mooring, calling to me in my Caribbean Dreamings.

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Worth the weight

Words have the power to cement feelings in time. A fleeting thought penned into the matrix will silently sit, assuming no change until one is given.  Since the spirit is so fluid, I would have to write a lot more often in order to capture it’s fluctuations. Instead, I try to express a sample of my soul and blog only when a thought slows for the ink.  And so, a melancholy moment stands still in time, lingering at the top of this Beelily webpage, tightening the tension of a heartstring, long after it’s calm beating rhythm has returned.  Having dug-out of that (somewhat shallow) hole, I feel compelled to move the post down the page.

I suspect there are things in life we will always need reminding of… the key is to have the people to do it. I was reminded this week of the combined wisdom of my friends – a force to respect and admire with absolute awe. A few e-mails and perfectly timed postal deliveries provided a sturdy shoulder, no matter the oceans divides.

“Balance is not found, it is created” – one of the simplest and most profound things said to me when I was searching for stable ground. An anecdote* about a turtle, scribbled in spirals on a handwritten letter, filled me with love and a gentle nudge in taking nothing for granted. A long awaited package reminded me of something so important, it worried me I’d forgotten it: – Never take love too seriously. The bigger it is, the stronger it is, the less it will know the meaning of moderation, and the more lightness and laughter will be needed to carry it forward. And finally, a lesson no one should ever forget, but the first we all do – There is so much time. Time to dream, time to act, time to love, time to talk… and always, time to wait.

*If there was an old blind turtle in the ocean. If once every one hundred years it stuck it’s head above the surface of the water. If in this moment it met a floating log with a hole in the center just big enough for the turtle’s head to pop through. Then the chances of this event would be greater than the chances of being born human. A chance not worth wasting.

How much does balance weigh?

Most of my convictions lighten my load, ethical choices that allow me a healthy spirit and unburdened shoulders. Finding the balance is often easy too… dogma can extinguish the brightest of fires. A little milk in it? That’s ok. A hitch instead of a hike? No problem. Compromises for sanity, for health, for happiness. But when some goals grow roots, pulling them up can take a lot of weight.

I try to live life spontaneously, blowing with every breeze; I strive to be free, to release myself from fear;  I want to love with everything I’ve got. But my passion, my direction, is to consume consciously – To create the closest thing I can to Utopia. Mostly, these ideas compliment each other: Spontaneity, Freedom, Love – Travel… by Bike… seek Truth, and you’ll have the perfect fit.

Except when they don’t, because sometimes they won’t. Find yourself on a petite island, where communities go as fast as they came, lovers leave at the height of your lust – and the only way Out, Now, is to compromise on that one principal who’s roots run through to your core.

People who match my dreams, who inspire me,  humour me, reach across a world and touch me, aren’t always close at hand… but when they are, I find myself giving my everything. A thought and I tell it, a fear and I voice it, a love and I fall. So when separation finally comes – and on this solitary road I walk, it always comes – it’s a lonely emptiness that fills my soul. I havn’t found the cure, and I’m not sure it exists.

Taking a plane to follow that freedom and escape these island walls probably isn’t the answer… and severing the ethical lines of that conviction would be a costly cut. But how do I remember to believe in that?

I don’t want to always be with my head in the clouds, my nose in my maps, imagining better worlds.  I want to feel the grass beneath my feet, and know that it is the greenest.

Mum and Me

After a year full of adventures, stories, advice, emails and Skype calls – finally my mother was in town. As in, the same town that I was! For two weeks, we sailed the sea, waded the water and hitchhiked the hills… here’s the proof:

Mum's tile painting - this will be my first boat, yellow with a red spinaker!

coil that line! reef that main! by god that's seamanship!

mum mum mum

The boulders from the boat

On top of the world at Virgin Gorda

Huge boulders at Virgin Gorda, and little Ramble in the background there

Why are we about to jybe? Oh right, you have to push the other way... the other way lil, tiller tiller tiller

A wheel, now that i know how to use

Ahoi captain

The shoes i made from our stearing wheel cover... still holding up!

Ramble my love...

Patty digging the sunset on Norman island

Mike having a webinar in paradise... (I didnt know what that was either)

Patty at Mr Beans Pirate gig at Marina Cay. Don't go for him!

Long Bay beach on Beef Island... and Mum

Ramble and our Yellow Banana tender there in the background. But in the Foreground, is Rubber Ducky, my ULTIMATE boat! Aulburg design and oh so beautiful!

Learning tunes from Charlie

Charlie on the fiddle

A lazy mornin'

Just another perfect beach

Lydia, Charlie's 50 year old 33ft classic fibreglass beauty.

Mum putting the sail away

Another sunset another day

Mum and Charlie on Lydia

ahhhh hammocks!

Life is tough...

Another hammock another day

hitching a ride in an icecream truck with my mum in the front seat!

Hitching a ride in an icecream truck, with mum in the front seat!

A hand made gift from oceans away... thanks so much Rosie!

crank that sheet in...

Finally, an Aussie flag on the boat

Fire Poi at Trellis Bay full moon party

Fire Poi - this guy was incredible!

Stuck in Paradise

Four months on an island 20kms long and 5kms wide. Four months, 120 days, a whole season… As someone who is rarely preoccupied with time, I was a little surprised by the anxiety gripping my chest as we sailed into Tortola. The Caribbean, not long ago, evoked images of a distant wonderland – where pirates danced on sandy shores and coconuts fell to feed them. My ignorance failed to inform me of the location of the Virgin Islands, let alone their British, American and Spanish settlements.

Now though, I had their coastal contours mapped out in front of me, and since U.S soil remained forbidden (temporarily), my life would have to fit within the wall of palm trees marking the confines of English territory. A northerly sail awaited me in April, but until then this would be home.

And although furthest away geographically, it was closer to ‘home’ – to the country I’d say I’m ‘from’ – than expected. The similarities to Vanuatu were an exciting discovery. I recognised so much of the flora (unfortunately mostly introduced) – Breadfruit trees, paw paw, banana, guava, banyan trees and what I’ll always know as ‘christmas trees’ – wide shady branches with bright red flaming flowers. To bite into sugarcane again for the first time in almost a decade, it’s sticky syrup on my lips, set me into a fit of giggles for over an hour. And at 30 degrees, everyday, this was my kind of winter!

No pirates yet but pretty close to paradise, and it’s hard to get bored in paradise. I spent two weeks on the most Easterly point Wwoofing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) with Arragorn, a local artist I met at the full moon party (it’s a small island), did some painting on the most Westerly point with Charlie, a guy who used to race on “Ramble” (it’s a really small island), some varnishing for John, and the rest of my time in between at Cane Garden Bay with a man named Mike.

He’s from a slightly bigger, slightly colder island – Vancouver Island, Canada – and says ‘boat’ so that it sounds just like ‘boot’. A longtime lightfooted traveller, he cycled down from the north west to New Orleans, sailed the east coast and is here spending three months hitchhiking around while studying online. He charmed me with his calm humility, witty humour and indiscriminate compassion. It’s been a welcome distraction for both of us – time never lasts long with lovers.

We went to an open mic night in town recently. Walking in, I recognised a dozen familiar faces, sat down next to another peddle powered friend (Scotland – China), ordered a Carib beer and realised, smiling, that I’d found myself a nice little community. It’s a very small island, but turns out it’s just big enough for me!

View from my Wwoofing hut, Trellis Bay

inside the loft

View from the farm, Trunk Bay

The Good Moon Farm

biciamoci... bikes bikes bikes

Richard and I getting into sugarcane

happy with sugar cane after so long... too long!

and the remnants... for the ants

Richard, wwoofer i got to work with

The enemy... cruise ships in Road Town

Anegada, a very low lying island... it's all reef

We sailed there and rented bikes! Perfect island for cycling!

road, or bike path?

Mike and John at lunch... you collect and clean your own food/dishes here!

mike in the cabin of ramble... dusk off Anegada

Dreams of Reality

There's only so many motoring catamarans you can take - a poster i made

Yes - i AM actually here - this is not a postcard!

Ramble is getting a makeover!

This is what we call boat-jail... the starboard locker with all the wires...

Cross that off the list! Woo!

Check it out - i made some shoes out of our old stearing wheel cover! Yay for recycled leather!

Part of the Frambly

“Of course, it’s not the same if you smoke out of curiosity and retreat, than belonging to the joint-smoker family, in which case life becomes bit by bit something flat. Investigators say so”.

No I didn’t lose my mind, or my English skills, but I did burst into a fit of giggles after Ava read this out to me from a (very badly!) translated Spanish newspaper somewhere off the coast of the Canary Islands. And that was only the first fit of the day, there would be at least a dozen more.

Ava is the just-turned 21 year old, Texan, or better put Austinite, who has been taking a year off language studies to sail the seas. She is almost always smiles, except when she’s not, in which case she bounds down the companion way, looks in all the cupboards and proclaims “Everything sucks!”. I give her a hug and we both break into a burst of laughter over how ridiculous this sentiment is. She was the optimistic, carefree Frambly member. We sung sea shanties together, gave each other massages almost every day and seriously chuckled a whole lot. I spent more than 50% of my day in hysterics. I can’t remember the last time I had laughed so much. Our friendship blossomed into a beautiful connection, and we both grew because of it.

Brad is the 36 yr old New York lawyer. He took things pretty seriously, and wouldn’t buy into our L.A.R.Ping pursuits but is a great budding philosopher and many an hour was spent together discussing our views and ethics. I can be known to chew the cud, so to speak, as good as the best of them, so it was nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off, argue and tumble over moral issues with. Brad would cook everything in his famous Tae Kwan Do position – legs apart, firmly planted, knees bent in a squatting position and pivoting at the waist from the sink to the stove. It seemed to work better than whatever I had going on, since one fateful evening my spaghetti sauce ended up over and under just about everything.

John is still John. The solid rock, ever inspiring, ever encouraging. He took every opportunity to congratulate, boost and marvel at all of our qualities. During the course of the sail I came to BELIEVE that I could do a great many more things that I had previously thought. I’d have a dream about some goal or other, mention a few pitfalls, and John would be the first to flatten them all, say “GO FOR IT” and convince me he was right. There were also less cheery moments, when we would have our ‘little talks’ and he would quietly mention things that needed improvement or that he was disappointed in. These times were obviously difficult for John, since he doesn’t like confrontation any more than I do, and hard for me to take too, especially since I have so much respect and admiration for him, but we both understood the importance of communication and struggled through them when the need arose.

We were a team. Every three hours, at a quarter to the hour, someone would come off their watch, gently wake the next person, pop on the kettle for coco and disappear up the stairs again while the other res-erected themselves from an often fitful sleep. We read Patrick O’Brian’s navy novels to each other, told jokes and countless stories. We powered on wind, water and love. From Europe to the America’s we consumed not a drop more than 10 litres of diesel. TEN LITRES! Our drinking water lasted, with plenty to spare, and what energy we used came from a line genorator spinning off our stern.  We obeyed Captains orders by clipping in while on deck, wearing safety gear and listening up when “Teddy Bear” was called. But really, in the end, we were just four friends on a fun adventure. We had great down wind cruising which we zoomed with thanks to the ‘Twizzle Rig’, a Genoa out on each side, held up by whisker poles and suspended in mid air. We had some rough seas and a little rain, but no gales or even any major squalls.

And finally, ghosting into the Virgin Islands at two o’clock in the morning, dark shadows of land all around, a summery lightness in the air – my life finally stopped becoming ‘bit by bit something flat’ and I had gained a whole Frambly of friends.

Bracing ourselves for sleep

Braford at the helm

freshly baked bread!

yes, my hair got a little WILD... it looks like it's about to eat Ava!

We made a log entry after every watch...

clip in, clip in, clip in, don't forget to clip in!

giggling, always giggling