Woh Woh Woh – Where have you been Lily!?

Wow, sorry guys. I kinda went AWOL there didn’t I?

But guess what? I have SO much to tell you!

When I left you last, oh so many months ago, I was in the Mediterranean, working on a 70ft classic sailing yacht. Remember the one?

image11Right. So, Marc and I are still working on the same boat, but a lot has happened in the meantime! For starters, we bought a boat together !!!!!!!! Yes, we bought a boat together. That’s sort of like marriage isn’t it? It felt just as serious and stressful and fun and heart-racing as marriage anyway.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Introducing… our new darling lady… the one and only…

Sailing Vessel PROJECTION – a Stevens 47:

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Wow, right? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? (**NB: I’m thinking: DAMN, that’s a big boat!!**)

Yes, we bought a big boat. She’s 47 ft long! That may come as a surprise to those of you that know me as the “smaller is better” “go small go now” “who needs a fridge anyway” philosophical sailor… but there is rhyme to our reason, don’t you worry.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just our boat. It’s your boat too!

The story is, we’re launching our very own business. It’s called Projection Travel and it’s officially a company so you can go ahead and put PTY LTD at the end of that ūüėČ We will be offering sailing and¬†cycling charters throughout the Pacific, starting in January 2016. Think gourmet food, kayak expeditions, tropical bike tours, turquoise¬†anchorages, yoga mornings etc, etc…¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† So, can I get a HELL YEAH?

More info on all that exciting stuff will come over the next few weeks as we get our website launched – watch this space for an opportunity to join us for some sailing and cycling adventures!

But by now you might be thinking… what about baby Portal?

Yes, baby Portal.

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My first love… my beautiful, darling Portal. This little lady will always hold a very special place in my heart. She taught me so much of everything. And she made it easy. Portal was a wonderful First Boat, and our journeys together… all the way from the smog of LA, through the clear waters of the Pacific, and into the tidal belly¬†of the Brisbane River… will never be forgotten!¬†

What? Portal’s GONE!?

Yes, ’tis true. Well, she’s “moved on” let’s say. She has found herself an abundantly suitable new caretaker, who I trust will love and care for her twice as well as I did. She will mosey her way along the Northern NSW coasts, and be grateful to have the wind in her sails once more.

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… So that’s about it for the BIG NEWS items. A summary, for those of you that skip to the bottom:

  • I left my job in the Med for a 3 month crazy-head-spinning trip to Australia, where I scrubbed my lovely boat Portal within an inch of her life and sold her to a delightful man named John.
  • Marc then came to snatch me back. It was a joyful reunion after 2 months too long!
  • Then,¬†we signed some big documents with scribbles at the bottom to say we just bought a NEW boat – Projection.
  • We are now back at work in the Med. But only for a few months – in September we jump ship, and start the real¬†project – Projection Travel: Sailing and Cycling Adventures.

Stay tuned for more ūüôā

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YOU

The end of a grand adventure is always a special time. Time to take a moment to reflect on the history of the journey, the work, the heartache, the joys, the tears. To remember when it was just a dream in the pipeline, to remember how it came to be reality. It seems a lifetime ago that I was here in Brisbane, dreaming of a boat I had only seen in pictures, and convincing Charlie to help me take her home. Now, two years later, here we are again, in the river-city of Australia amongst friends and family.

In the meantime, we have learnt how to be plumbers, electricians, riggers, mechanics, sailors, navigators, captains… and we didn’t get here on our own. So many people have made this dream a possibility, and it’s you we want to thank. Yes, YOU. For your support, for your funding, for your wisdom and lessons and encouragement. We could never have grown into the people we are today without you. Thank you for helping us achieve this gargantuan goal, and for sticking with us when we really had very little idea or experience. Thank you!

Our Support Team:

First and foremost, is of course, our parents. Mum (Susan Bothmann), Peter Franks, Dad (Keith Barlow), Mom (Pam Alsum), Dad (Charley Brigham). Wow. You guys threw money and love at us when all we had were dreams, and your trust gave us wings. Thanks for taking the time to visit and for helping us achieve so much in that short 9months! Thank you, from the deepest depths of our hearts, for believing in us, and supporting yet another crazy endeavor that kept getting crazier. We’ll stop now for a while, I promise.

Family has always been our rock, and our sisters have always been there to lean on. You guys reminded us what a special adventure this one was, and to keep on truckin’. Thanks! Ella Barlow, Carolyn Barlow, Suzie Norman and Johanna O’Tigham. You ladies rule! Special thanks to Carolyn for making the effort to join in Tonga, and for all the fun we had sailing home to Vila!

There’s one person that single-handedly put Portal in our hands. If not for Mr John Reid, we would probably still be two ragged hitch-hikers, wondering which rope to pull and what the hell a GRIB file was. From the planting of a dream four years ago, to the weather-routing-rescue mid-Pacific, John has never failed to encourage, educate and support us on this mission. He stood firmly as a pillar of support for us newbie sailors, and literally talked us through every step of the way. I would never have even considered this a possibility, if not for his firm encouragement. Thank you for helping me become the sailor and skipper I am!

Our crew deserves a top-of-the-list thanks – Barbara Graf and Lydia Witter. Thank you for putting all your trust in us, for never asking too much, and for always giving your all to this amazing adventure! Thank goodness we had your help!

And to their families: George, Laurie, Werner and Gabriella. For trusting us to sail away with their children, for always lending support, and for taking on the burden of worry so we could have an amazing adventure! Thank you!

There are two people that didn’t just make this trip special, they made it unforgettable. For their friendship, love, support and constant help and hospitality, we could never thank Jess and Duncan of Alliance enough. From the life-saving tows when we were in trouble, to the countless late nights of giggles and good food – we will always be grateful. We love you guys so much!

A big all-round thanks to all the friends and family back home (both in the US and Australia), who sent us words of encouragement and for believing in us. Thanks for keeping in touch, for reading the blog, and for following us on the Tracker. We loved having you along for the journey!

In chronological order:

Jerry Purcell: Our broker in LA, for his rule-bending early on, and the push to get us OUT!

Robert Brown: Our first friend in LA! Thanks for all the buckets of wise advice and never doubting we were going to make this happen.

Mariners Bay Marina: We really owe them thanks, though I doubt they know it! For turning a blind eye to our “sneak-a-board” lifestyle, and having such relaxed marina rules that meant we could use the dock for projects!

Arturo the rigger and Ken of Maritime Communications: For being one of the few voices of reason in California! Honest and knowledgeable advice was hard to come by, so thank you both for being the exception!

Downtown LA Bicycles – Rod and his family: From the beginning you helped make this happen! Thank you for giving Charlie a comfortable and enjoyable work environment, and for always taking such an interest in our journey. Your gifts and support made our life so much easier and safer!

Huckleberry Cafe – For being a fun place to work with great pay and conditions. Thank you for dealing with my frequent stress-migraines and supporting me on this project!

The Ship’s Store – RIP. The last of the Marina Del Rey small business marine shops – you will be missed!

Max and Stefan: We owe you two doggers! Thanks for letting us use your address, and for receiving dozens of bizarre packages of all shapes and sizes – it was a major help!

A big thanks go to Michelle and Ryan, Kevin, Nicole and Wendy, Augustine, Cyprus, Cathy, Jon, Giovani, Travis, Robin and Kevin, Doug and all the other friends that kept us sane while we worked unhealthy hours, pouring everything into this. Thank you for breaking the monotony and cheering us up just when we needed it!

We want to thank the rightful owners and inhabitants of all countries and lands we travelled to – thank you for allowing us to visit your home by sailboat, for letting us eat your fruit and catch your fish. We respect and admire your welcoming attitude and open hearts. Thank you.

Thank you to Laurence, Kai and family of Lilikoi Garden Cafe in Moorea – you guys made our Moorea experience unforgettable, and we just loved meeting your beautiful family. You helped us get through tough bike-theft times, do laundry, and always had a safe haven for us to crawl to! Thanks for the great hikes and the good times!

Thanks to Mike of the Aquarium Cafe in Tonga, for creating such a friendly, useful space for cruisers and always making us feel welcome.

A huge thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to my Ni-Vanuatu family: Gladys, Samuel, Mothy, Mark, John, James, and Jack. You make Vanuatu HOME for me, and seeing you again was beyond amazing. Thank you for welcoming us so truly and completely, as well as our friends, Jess and Duncan. I’ll see you again soon!

A big thank you to Paul James, for all the help and support while we were in Vila!

A huge and special thanks to the Beeson family – your hospitality and help saw no limits! Thank you for really making life in Vila fun and easy, for the delicious meals, great adventures and for the sailing interest! Cam, we loved having you join us, and we are truly sorry it was such a horrendous trip! May there be another someday to make up for it!

Thanks to Mic Mcgra for opening your home to us, and giving me the pleasure (and comforts) of memory-lane!

Thank you to our family-friends Tess, Bernie and Lachlan, for the delicious old-school dinner at L’Houstalet and the wonderful welcome.

To Malcolm and Jackie from Cornwall, thanks for your help in Tanna!

A big thank you to Esteve in New Caledonia, for all the car-rides, and for making the Blue River national park so easy and fun to explore by bike.

And finally, a thank-you to all the people un-mentioned, for picking us up when hitch-hiking, for giving us help and direction when we were lost, for letting us sit in your cafe for hours using the free internet, and for generally making our lives easier as travellers and sailors. Thank you!

Pacific Cruising Community:

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These are the friends that accompanied us across the ocean, and you are the ones that  made this trip something special. Every landfall was made sweeter by your company, and every bottle of Abuelo and Clos was tastier with you to share it! The camaraderie and support that we received from you often pulled us out of sticky situations, and we thank you for all your help along the way! Fair winds and following seas to you all!

Paul and Celeste of The Beguine: Thank you for all your amazing fishing advice, all the gifts (especially the incredible equator-crossing Scotch!) and for believing in the crazy youngsters with the tiny boat!

Jared and Scott of Reisender (and Pixel, their cat!): for being our very first cruising buddies, for always lending a hand where it was needed and for that last roll of duck-tape – it really came in handy!

Jess, Duncan and Jeff of Alliance – because it just doesn’t get any better than you.

Bruce, Catherine, Luka, and Don of Marionette; from delicious dinners to help with boat projects, we miss you and want to thank you for just being great sailors and great friends. Bruce, you are an inspiration to us all.

Henrick and Morton of Night Hawk; For that first ‘Hamburga’ party, and being the charming vikings that you are. We loved being next to you in port!

Toby, Simon and Louie of Warskavi; 3 vikings on a tiny boat – you won our love from the start, and we thank you for being the good friends you are and always up for some fun!

Travis and Joanne of Calico Jack; For your amazing cooking and wonderful hospitality, and for being part of this years crossing crew!

Neville of Compass Rosey; Thank you for that spare solar controller – it was a wonderful back-up!

The whole crew of Llyr; For inspiring us with your unique research-sailing vessel, and for being such a wonderfully open and friendly family!

Mark, Paul, Inaki of Sikim; Oh, you guys! We miss you and can’t wait to see you again some day – Thanks for always filling life with more laughter!

Robin and crew of FlapJack; For the regular radio help and information when entering a new place – thank you for making our lives easier!

Chris from Santa Cruz; Dude! Thanks for joining our circle for a while, and we hope to see you again!

David and family of Suvarow; Thank you for the wind-vane! And for inspiring us with your dedication and cutie-pie family!

Charles and Heather of Chilli Cat; Thank you for helping us get our bikes back in Moorea! It was great to have you as part of our travelling community.

Graham and Dianne of Maunie; For the hospitality and great laughs – and for loving our cat so much!

Beth-Anne and Doug of Sinbad; Thank you for the ‘golden egg’ theory, and for being so open and humble – your boat & tour was the best of the trip!

Tray, Amy and Ryan of Blue Moon; Thanks for the help in Raietea, and for good meals and good chats!

John of Ocean Jewel; Thank you for that great Brisbane chart and the brand-new boat hook! What a life saver!

Karen, Andreas, Esra and Angie of Happy; It was so great to meet you guys! Thanks for the great bonfires and good times!

Rona of Hello World; Thanks for being so bad-ass and inspiring me to single-hand someday! We hope to see you again…

Phil, Connolly and Travis of Sea Monkey; Thanks for the water that night… and for the fun and hijinks that followed, it was great meeting you!

John and Nia of Zeitgeist; Our new friends! Thanks for being cool and inspiring us with… everything!

Harry and Dagmar of Moyo; Thanks for the offered refuge in Tanna, for the fish and the friendship!

Peter and Vanessa of Akimbo; Thank you for the great hospitality, all the wealth of information, the delicious food and all the fun we had in Noumea!

Peter, Peter and Jess of Quest of Signet; Thanks for being there when we were going crazy, and for going crazy too! We loved the bonfires and late nights with you guys.

Mike and Jules of Sirius; Thank you for keeping our spirits up when the weather wasn’t cooperating – for the fun board games and great nights together.

Mathew and Karen of Gallanego; It was great meeting you both, thanks for the all the fun!

Tom of Earl of Tasmania; Thanks for being such a crazy dude, for having an even smaller/older engine than us, and for really cheering us on!

And Finally:

A last-but-certainly-not least final Thank You, to the most valuable crew ever to sail the south-pacific. Mr Gramps, Auto-helm 2000, despite the ups and downs, became our friend, mentor and right-hand-man. Thanks for getting us here Gramps! We did it together!

 

 

 

 

 

Portal’s Pacific Complete!

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At 165 million square kilometers in area, the Pacific Ocean covers about 46% of the Earth’s water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth’s land area combined.

Translation: Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a 30ft sailing boat, often going no faster than a brisk walk, takes a really, really long time. It’s big. Really big. Big enough to contain thousands of paradisaical islands, a whole bunch of curious whales, dozens of delicious Dorado, miles and miles of treacherous waves, kilometers of tranquil still seas, squalls, thunderstorms, pelting rain, rainbows, turtles, sunshine, parades of fast moving ships, communities of slow moving sailors, black people, white people, weavers and carvers and builders, and a whole bunch more of COMPLETE UNKNOWN.

But, all crests are conquerable, and after 9 months of sailing, Portal has made it to Australia. We are tired, dirty and hungry, but we’re here!

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Tanna and The Mighty Yasur

“Never go to windward!!” Jess of Alliance had warned us, several weeks earlier about the perils of moving the boat into the wind. But with the island of Tanna and it’s unmissable live volcano lying south of Port Vila, we had little choice. Besides, the wind was light and from the East, how bad could it be?

Our new friend Cam would be joining us on this leg, continuing on until Noumea. We were excited to have him aboard, and spent a lovely calm evening aboard Portal in Havannah Harbor before setting off the next morning. What followed was easily this trip’s worst passage. 50nm became two days of constant slamming, beating and grinding as we tried to aim for the west coast of Tanna. Getting swept off the shore by West setting currents, a fierce SE wind and decently sized swells, Portal bravely pushed on. Our tiller-pilot broken, our engine over-heating and our batteries too low for comfort, the trip seemed to drag on endlessly. Unable to point up at all, we followed the coast south, getting soaked and tired through squall after squall. A new plan was set for the East coast anchorage at Lenakel, and finally, on the third morning, we were 5nm away.

Then the wind died. Typical. With our engine out of action, Charlie and I started getting creative. We rigged our 8ft oars up on either side of Portal and tried to make way in the now calm but rolly seas. Surprisingly, this didn’t really work. Our exhausted bodies ached for rest, and the now chaotic cabin cried out for a clean. At last, after 2 hours, a squall came through with winds from the NE and we were able to coast into the somewhat protected anchorage at Lenakel.

This exciting adventure was about all the sailing Cam could handle, so he jumped a flight back to Vila the next morning. We tried to convince him it wasn’t usually so bad, but with a deadline to get back for, the verdict was made. He treated us to an absolutely divine meal at The Tanna Lodge – a haven for three weary sailors.

With Cam gone and our friends Alliance over on the other side of the island, we began our mission to join them at the Volcano. What began as a hitchhiking journey through the heart of Tanna, became a 5 hour hiking escapade, often taking us in circles; but with the mighty Yasur booming close by, we were in good company and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. By nightfall we were reunited with our good friends, and recounting our horrendous sail over tea and cookies. We slept a sweet slumber in their spare cabin, ready to take on Yasur the following day.

This live, spitting volcano is best seen at night, and in it’s current Category 3 state (there are only 4), we were treated to a seriously awe-inspiring event. I won’t even try to describe what it’s like to stand precariously on the edge of a lava filled crater that’s shooting red-hot boulders high into the sky… suffice it to say that I’ll never appreciate fireworks again.

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Lap Lap and The Family Bond

Lap Lap, a delicious, traditional Ni-Vanuatu meal is more than just coconut milk and banana leaves. As the vines that bind the leaves together, so too does the dish bind families. Commonly eaten during festivities or special occasions, lap-lap consists of yam, taro or manioc, mixed with pressed coconut cream and a selected meat, often sausage or chicken. Ingredients are layered over softened Banana leaves, then closed and bound for a slow bake under pre-heated rocks. It is a long process, and therefore one that involves the whole family community. It’s as much about the journey as the destination, though the taste alone seems worth it.

As a celebration of our time in Vanuatu, and the re-uniting of families, Gladys and Samuel hosted us for a mouth-watering feast and full day of love, friendship and family. We want to thank them so much for such a wonderful bonding experience. Making lap-lap is not only a reminder of my childhood, but also a continuation of my connection to this country and these people.

Here’s the process in photos:

(nb: do not continue on an empty stomach)

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Re-united with Friends at Last!

Jess and Duncan, of Alliance, finally sailed into town, and then the fun really started! We gave them a warm welcome of cappucinos and pastries, along with an assortment of Vanuatu tourist info! We are so glad they are back in our lives!

Our friends Cam and Ros took us around the island again (in a car this time) and we had lots of fun being silly and getting massages from their son Oscar:

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We even treated ourselves to a paid adventure – Horse riding! Charlie and Duncan had never ridden, so we made it a priority. It was loads of fun, and most of the horses were well behaved. Charlie’s “Rocky” didn’t like to be told what to do – but no matter, Charlie was loving it!:IMG_9324 IMG_9332 IMG_9333 IMG_9347 IMG_9348 IMG_9350 IMG_9357 IMG_9363 IMG_9369 IMG_9374 IMG_9373 IMG_9372 IMG_9383 IMG_9385 IMG_9388

We went camping on the small block of land my Mum still owns. (We love our homes, but it’s nice to stop the moving occasionally). And built an awesome mosquito free palace!:¬† IMG_9391 IMG_9402 IMG_9393 IMG_9403 IMG_9411 IMG_9442 IMG_9437 IMG_9445

We took hikes, and went to checkout my old favourite water fall… unfortunately it’s been taken over by a huge oily water pump, and the ambiance wasn’t quite the same…:IMG_9660 IMG_9672 IMG_9667 IMG_9690 IMG_9678 IMG_9693

And at the end of the day – there’s always Happy Hour and the good-ol’ Water Front Bar and Grill:IMG_9698

 

 

Keepin’ it Sticky

What have we been doing!? Not writing blog posts, that’s obvious. Actually, despite barely moving the boat, we’ve been quite busy! After umming and ahing about moving further north or not, we decided to focus our time here on Efate, Vanuatu’s main island, and enjoy ‘staying put’ for a while. Actually, ‘staying put’ is the name of a good anchoring guide, and it’s not exactly accurate to say that’s what we’ve been doing. The holding in Port Vila is terrible, and we’ve re-anchored a handful of times, hoping to finally get her to dig in. Not to worry though, dragging into other boats (almost!) is what keeps cruising exciting, right?

Here’s an easier way to get you up to date:

We took the bikes on a cycling adventure, around the island (140km), which including the longest, steepest hill we’ve ever encountered… (yes, including the alps and the rocky mountains!) and a lovely evening camping OFF the boat. It was a hot sticky ride, and tons of fun:

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Occasionally we even moved the boat, with our new friends Cam and Ros. It was a bit of a blustery day, and somehow we didn’t catch ANY fish, but fun was had, and Cam got to show us his sailing prowess:

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We wanted to bug bomb the boat before getting to Australia, so we loaded up the dinghy, covered the cockpit, chucked pixel in for an adventure, and set off rowing for two hours:

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By the way, on our return, she made a final leap from the dinghy to the mother-ship – quite a substantial bound!

We had a lovely dinner with laplap up at my ni-vanuatu family’s property – Gladys, Samuel, Mothy and Mark really treated us to a feast:IMG_9281 IMG_9285

Pixel still loves lettuce, and Luckey is looking better than ever, after a full repaint, fibreglass repair, and new gunnel rope bumper:

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